The Gospel according to Matthew

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{The first part of these notes was originally given as an exposition of Matthew 13, and was so published, translated from the French. But, as even here the exposition gives a general sketch of the preceding chapters, and as I am enabled to add a version of the notes on the chapters which follow, I have ventured so to modify the title as to suit the paper as a whole. The early part dwells only on chapter 13. - Ed.]}

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Matthew 20

The kingdom was established by the sovereignty of grace, and if God called the labourers at the eleventh hour, He could reward them as He pleased. Thus the last should be first, and the first last. On one side, then, there was the encouragement of the reward of labours and sacrifices; but, on the other, if one lost sight of the principle of grace, with a view to demanding this reward as of right, and so that others should not have it, then here is the answer: "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?" Cheered by the prospect of an unbounded reward, we are wholly upon the principle of grace.

Having thus set forth the motives of labour in the kingdom of heaven, after having explained the transition, from obedience to the law (in order to have life) to christian devotedness, the Lord puts clearly before the eyes of His disciples the path here below which conducts to glory. The Son of man should be rejected, delivered to the Gentiles, and crucified; but here still the Lord shews His profound and entire submission to His Father. His disciples shall drink, it is true, of His cup (it is His answer to those who asked of Him the first places), but as to their reward, He left it with His Father; He pretends not to assign it to others. An entire dependence on His Father - such was the position of Christ. He had not even, so to speak, the patronage of His kingdom.

This desire of the two disciples was in itself only a manifestation of the spirit of the flesh; the Gentiles so acted. Jesus speaks of the Gentiles, for He recognises the remnant of Israel in His disciples, a remnant which, apparently, lost its place in following Him. It is in glory that their relation with Israel should be manifested; but let him who would be great among them be a servant. It is what the Son of man had done; He was come to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.

41 Since the transfiguration, the Lord acts according to principles which go beyond the law, while recognising its force according to what God had said of it - principles which assert a rejected Messiah, and shew where it is necessary to come, that is, to accompany Him without the camp. It was the Son of man ministering and giving His life as a ransom, and not the Messiah crowned with the glory of Israel: they are chapters of transition.* The church is not there. They are the relationships of the Son of man, rejected by the Jews and taking another place, but assuring, to those who followed Him, their true position in glory in the age to come, when the Jews shall be restored; but, referring to the Father, being subject, and having only to suffer Himself. It was the Father who should glorify them; then those who followed Him now should act anew on the Jews, and that from the bosom of glory.

{*The transition from the position of Messiah to that of the Son of man is very striking in this Gospel, and this last title has always in view the future glory of Christ, though He was the Son of man in humiliation already. The province of His rule, and all the thought which is bound up with it, are of a far larger extent than that which is bound up with the title of Messiah. We have seen the church founded on the confession of the Son of God, because there is found the life whereby it lives and the principle of its relations with the Father; but, as Son of man, Christ is the heir of man, and that according to the counsels of God as regards man, and not only according to the extent of the dominion of Adam. It is quite another idea and another position from heir of David, whatever may have been His glory in this character. (See Psalm 8.)}

At the close of the chapter, the Holy Ghost resumes the thread of history: Christ presents Himself for the last time to the people, as such; and, owned as Messiah, the Son of David, He acts in power, in favour of those who owned Him, namely, two blind men; and in

Matthew 21

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a public testimony is borne to Him, as the Son of David; then comes the judgment of all the people in His presence. In the gospel according to John, the testimony is borne to the glory of Jesus as Son of God, by the resurrection of Lazarus; to His glory as Son of David, by His entrance into Jerusalem, which is also recounted here; and to His glory as Son of man, by the arrival of the Greeks, who ask to see Him, which gave Him room to announce His death. But here, in this gospel, which is occupied with the Messiah and His relations with the Jews - relations interrupted by their sins, and resumed later in glory - the question is only of His messianic glory, to which God bears a testimony according to the word of the prophet.

42 And, first, it is the Lord who announced Himself; all is at His disposal. He sends to seek the ass, and commands His disciples to reply to those who asked why they acted thus, "The Lord has need of them." Mounted on the ass, He enters Jerusalem as a King, according to the prediction of Zechariah. The multitudes salute Him, according to Psalm 118, and announce to the excited city that it is Jesus, the prophet of Nazareth, that they thus receive as King.

Jesus, having entered into the temple, executes judgment, purifies the house of God, denouncing the iniquity which had defiled it, and heals those who could neither see nor walk. He recalls to mind how the Psalms shewed that the Lord would vindicate His rights by the mouth of little children, and leaves the city in order to repair to Bethany. He enters as Lord, King and Judge; but He is no more of Jerusalem. By the curse of the fig-tree He shews the condemnation of Israel, full of appearance, but without fruit, and declares to the disciples, astonished at that which had happened to the tree, that, if they had faith, they should cause the mountain which was before them to disappear, all the stability of the nation, which should be cast among the peoples.

The next day, as they demanded by what authority He did these things, He returns the point of the question upon the conscience of those who addressed it to Him; a conscience too little upright to answer, and which, hiding itself under a pretended ignorance, left Him by that very thing the liberty of refusing to answer them. Also, it was evident that they would not avow that which they knew well; to answer would have been impossible, and only a sanction given to iniquity. Besides, the Lord sounds their conscience in place of recognising their authority; it is what was then fitting. He is the Messiah in spite of them, and He judges, and thereupon He presents them, commencing with themselves, with the true picture of their conduct, worse than that of the publicans and of the harlots. Then He describes all the conduct of the nation toward the messengers that God had sent them, even to His own Son, and He makes them pronounce their own sentence, which He supports by a citation of Psalm 118:22. Finally, He announces to them, alluding to this Psalm, the consequence of stumbling on this stone, and the still more terrible lot of those on whom it should fall in judgment.*

{*This beautiful passage, from chapter 21:28, to 22:14, depicts with astonishing exactness all the ways of the Lord with respect to the Jews and their ways. The second invitation to the Jews, after the death of Jesus Himself, is there presented. When God could say in all its force, "All things are ready," it is then that they killed the messengers, as the Lord predicts to them lower down, chapter 23.}

Matthew 22

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Up to this point the Lord had taken them on their own ground, as Jews, citing their own scriptures, and judging their state, considering them as the vineyard of the Lord; it was the Son of the King Himself who sought fruit in the vineyard which He had entrusted to the husbandmen. But there was another point of view, the activity of His Son; and the kingdom of heaven is presented of the love of God and His counsels on the subject as the marriage supper of the King's Son, to which they had been invited and would not come: upon that their rejection and the call of the Gentiles, but, consequent upon that call, the judgment of those who had not really put on Christ. The nation, in general, had then been judged according to its actual position, and in view of the grace which it had rejected, grace which invited it to the wedding of the King's Son, where it was going to be succeeded by poor wretches collected from all sides, but received of God. The different classes of Israel now in their blindness are presented for judgment. The partisans of the law and of the rights of the Jews, join themselves with the impiety which sold them to the Gentiles, and ask Him if they should own this dominion of the Gentiles over the people of God. The Lord leaves them where their iniquity had placed them, demanding that they should render to God His true service. After that came the Sadducees, who are judged by the simple but powerful testimony of the word. The Lord Jesus gives the great fundamental principles of all the law and the prophets - principles which, moreover, should be realised only in the gospel and in the renewed man. Then He presents the enigma of His own position, according to Psalm 110: the Jews were entirely incapable of resolving it. From that moment no man durst ask Him any more questions.

Matthew 23

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The Lord, while quite owning the judicial authority of that which existed among the Jews, an authority based upon the law, pronounces a judgment, levelled at all those who administered that authority, insisting that the form even of it should no more subsist in the midst of His own and that the greatest among them should be servant, for he who exalted himself should be abased.* What was yet wanting to fill up the measure of the scribes and Pharisees was to imbrue their hands in the blood of God's witnesses, from which they boasted that they were pure. They were about to be put to the proof, and all the blood shed should be required of that generation. Finally, the Lord, moved with affection for the city beloved of God, declares that their house should be left desolate, and that those to whom He was speaking should see Him no more till they would say, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!" according to Psalm 118 already cited twice: testimony of their restoration in peace at the time of the coming of Christ and of the preparation of their heart before His advent.

{*But this passage is remarkable in shewing how little, in this gospel, the Lord withdrew His own from the position of the Jewish remnant. Among them this direction had no place; to them there were neither scribes nor Pharisees nor Moses' seat; but he desires to view them in this gospel also, as a Jewish remnant, having, as such, relationship with the nation.}

Matthew 24, 25

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The nation was judged, and its restoration foretold, when its heart should be prepared to receive Him whom God had sent; but the disciples were not yet instructed in the circumstances which should take place in the interval, nor was their heart separated from the glory of the former order of things. This chapter brings us to the communications of Christ on this subject, and furnishes the warnings necessary to the faithful remnant.

The first thing that Jesus announces to them is the judgment of God upon that which existed at that time before their eyes, and of which the disciples had such an exalted idea. There should not remain there one stone on another. The Lord being seated on the mount of Olives, His disciples come to Him. That which the Lord had said to them suggested this question, or rather, these questions: When will these things take place, namely, the destruction of the temple? What will be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the age?

45 We must remember, that the age for the disciples, was not Christianity, but, on the contrary, the state of Judaism, until the coming of the Messiah; so that these things were connected in their mind. The Lord had spoken of the destruction of the temple, which has more or less connection with the same thought; nevertheless it is rather the revelation which the Lord had made thereupon that gave rise to the questions which had already pre-occupied their mind.

In His answer He does not touch upon the first of these questions, namely, the era of the destruction of the temple. In fact that did not concern them; for that temple was as nothing for them now in the eyes of the Lord. He considers their position in two points of view, namely, the general point of view, according to which they found themselves in a position of witness; and the special point of view, when the abomination of desolation would be at Jerusalem. The first extends to the end of the thirteenth verse; the second from the fifteenth verse to the twenty-eighth.

The first thing that the Lord points out is, that the ruin in which His departure was to leave Jerusalem would give place to many false Christs, which would come in His name. The disciples must not suffer themselves to be deceived by them. There would be also wars and rumours of wars,* but they must not be disturbed by them; these things must take place, but the end would not be yet. For nation would rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there would be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places, and all these things would only be the beginning of sorrows. Such is the outside, the providential events of which they would have knowledge.

{*Here commences, it seems to me, the bearing more properly historical.}

Such would be the state of the world, and what would happen there in this time of waiting for the Lord and for the end of the age; when the time would draw near. and that those who should have intelligence must await His coming on the earth and for the earth, a waiting which identified itself with the interests of the Jews in a manner, it is true, more or less clear, nevertheless according to God. He speaks of His disciples as of the Jewish remnant; but, though they were surrounded by Jewish circumstances, the hatred against them, while having its source among the Jews, would extend still further; they would be hated of all the Gentiles for the name of Christ. There would be also treasons, many would be offended - false prophets among those who pretended to have the same hopes, and the excess of iniquity would chill many of them. But, whoever endured unto the end should be saved. All this supposes the disciples in Jewish relations; not that the testimony of God was limited to that; but, whatever may have been elsewhere the extent of the testimony, the Lord speaks here of those who were connected with the hopes, the thoughts, and the circumstances of the Jews. The testimony of the gospel of the kingdom would be borne effectively in all the extent of the habitable world to all the nations, to all the Gentiles. It is not a question here of salvation and of the union of the church in a single body with Christ, but of the gospel of the kingdom: "this gospel of the kingdom" (the gospel which Jesus preached to the Jews; not His death, which was not a gospel to the Jews, for it was an effect of their unbelief with regard to the gospel which He preached; but the testimony that the kingdom was at hand) would be announced to the Gentiles.

46 If the ground of all that abides, for the Christian, there is a speciality which is proper to the testimony of John the Baptist, of Christ on earth, and of the disciples in the latter days.

This fourteenth verse is taken quite alone as a fact which is to happen before the end of this age is come on earth. Here then the Lord, though He may have given warnings useful for His disciples, as Christians, in those days, takes the same starting-point as they take in their questions, and returns to the point whither their thoughts tended, without correcting anything as to this tendency. He interests Himself as to the same things; He does not own, it is true, the nation and the temple as they then existed; but He does not seek to raise their hopes to heaven. He supposes that their connections always subsist with the earth, with Israel, but according to God; as a remnant, and as having the testimony of God in the midst of all that. It is just what happened. during part of their life; then that was, as it were, eclipsed by the church, but it will be fully accomplished in the latter times, at the beginning of the travail of bringing forth, which will introduce the end of the age.

47 Therefore, at the fifteenth verse, the Lord determines the thing plainly by a date, or at least by an event which is local, and which has a known relation with the end; and here is the second part of His discourse, where all is marked with precision. The abomination of desolation, of which Daniel has spoken, will be placed in the holy place; and here we must refer entirely to Daniel ("whoso readeth, let him understand"), that is to say, that this has reference to what will happen at Jerusalem and in those countries, in this locality definitely, and to nothing else, and that in the latter days. When this will happen, the disciples, instructed by the prophecy, are to flee. Here the hope is entirely Jewish. It is evident that it is not for me to save my life in flying from Jerusalem; that the aim of the Christian is no more that flesh should be saved, that is to say, that his life here below should be spared. In a word, they are Jews, having faith, but in Jewish circumstances, thoughts and intelligence. They were to pray to God that their flight might not be on the Sabbath day, etc.

Meanwhile, dear reader, see what tenderness, of God in the midst of these scenes of horror, which, if the hand of God was not extended in grace, should spare no flesh! See the majesty of the heavens, which deigns to think of the time that He will provide for the flight of His poor creatures and of the Sabbath which might shackle them! But here there is a very important remark to make, which is that the Lord says, Your flight, and When ye shall see, that is to say, that, although the circumstances might alter, He always regards His disciples under their Jewish character.

From the fifteenth verse of chapter 24, it is evident that the Lord addresses Himself to them as to the same as those of whom the question is in the preceding verses: "Take heed that no one deceive you" (v. 4); "when ye, therefore, shall see" (v. 15); that is, He views His disciples as Jewish disciples in connection with the nation, as He had done towards the nation itself in the preceding chapter, verse 37, where He identifies it with the nation in the latter days, " Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." Nevertheless, there is in the circumstances a sufficiently important difference. He supposes the death of many during the first period without date. When the abomination is there, it is a question of saving one's life. In these beginnings of sorrows, which have no fixed date, but which suppose Jewish disciples in Palestine, betrayed by one another and hated by the Gentiles, the hope of many is to be founded still more upon the resurrection than upon the deliverance wrought by the advent of the Messiah. The Psalms (which present to my mind the relations with the Jews, of Christ considered either as the just man, or as the King on Zion) speak either of Himself prophetically, or of the faithful remnant, animated by His Spirit with more or less intelligence, and of His circumstances in the latter days.

48 Now, the book of Psalms is divided into five parts, which treat each of a different subject. In the first the hope of resurrection is very frequently found there; in the others, almost more; in all is seen the expectation of deliverance; but in the first this expectation is passed beyond, which has hardly place in the others. Now, from the beginning of the second part, the Spirit of Christ, in the remnant, speaks as having been forced to abandon Jerusalem, of which the remembrance is precious to Him. He appeals from it to God against the Gentiles in Psalm 42; and against the ungodly Jews in Psalm 43.

It is very evident that the disciples, to whom Jesus addressed Himself, while they had, at the moment of His speaking with them, Jewish hopes, enjoyed at a later period the hope of the resurrection, and more beyond; but He speaks to them here according to their actual position before Him, and, as Prophet, He declares to them what concerned the faithful remnant of the people called to bear testimony, as in the preceding chapter He had shewn them the fate of the nation. The disciples were those "of understanding," of Daniel 11 and 12, who are called here to understand that of which the intelligence is promised them in those chapters.

The warnings for the time of testimony are then given to the end of the thirteenth verse, and, having announced the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom among all nations, at least among all those of the prophetic (habitable) earth, we have from the fifteenth the instructions of Jesus for the time of the last twelve hundred and sixty days. Then will the false Christs seduce, if it were possible, even the elect; but the coming of the Son of man will be like the lightning, for where the carcase is, there, as the flight of the eagle, will fall the judgment of God.

49 Here ends the second part, which treats of the great tribulation at Jerusalem, and of the dangers which accompany it even for the very elect, dangers to which the advent of the Son of man puts an end. The circumstances of that time, when it shall come, will furnish a date and signs. Moreover, and as a general result, immediately after the tribulation of those days, all the powers of heaven shall be shaken; and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven. Many warnings had been given to the disciples, but no sign to the people on earth; it had even been refused: the sign of the Son of man would now be in heaven at His coming. The generation having been already rejected, it would have been out of place to have given it a sign; it was too late, for it was about to be judged: as the tribes of the land (of Israel) shall mourn, according to Zechariah 12, and shall see the Lord come in the clouds of heaven. Every eye shall see Him; but here I believe that Jesus restricts Himself to Israel, I do not say to Jerusalem: they are all the tribes of the land of Israel who are called to mind here. But this will not be all: He will gather together the elect* of this people from the four winds, from all the countries where they will be scattered in those days. Two things, as to the epoch, are here distinctly marked by the Lord:

{*See Isaiah 65:22 - a passage, however, which seems to confine itself to the elect already in the country; here they are sought from afar. I only quote it for the force of the word "elect" here.}

Firstly, the circumstances of which He has just been speaking. When all these things shall come to pass, His coming and the end of the age will be at the door; secondly, the actual generation of the Jews shall not pass away till all these things should be accomplished. There are circumstances for them that understand. As to dates, if the day or hour be inquired of, the Father alone knew them.*

{*For my part, I believe that all the calculations that have been made are without foundation. There may be many very interesting things in the works in which they are found, as I have often found; but the calculations themselves are baseless. I believe there have been analogous things, wherein the principles of evil, which shall break out in the last days, have been more or less developed; but as to the exact calculations, they are based on a false principle, because these dates, in their exact application, apply to the Jews of the last days.}

50 As to the generation, I doubt not but that the Lord uses this expression morally, which is constantly done in the word. "He shall go to the generation of his fathers, they shall never see light," Ps. 49:19. "A seed shall serve him, it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation," Ps. 22:30. See specially Deuteronomy 32, which precisely treats of this subject, in verses 5 and 20.

If the day is not known save to the Father alone, that accords, I think, with what is said in Psalm 110: "Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool." The Lord, who expects all here below as servant of His Father, has received but this word at His mouth, "until." Nothing shall fail, no uncertainty in the events, not one word that has proceeded out of His mouth shall fall to the ground. As to the moment, it would be as in the days of Noah; that is to say, a sudden judgment, and unexpected on the earth; they should be overtaken by it, when they should least expect it. Yet the Lord will know how to distinguish them, and to leave those whom He should think worthy, even though two men should be in the same field, or two women at the same mill.

It was then for the disciples, instructed beforehand, to watch, for they did not know in what hour their Lord would come.

But it may be asked, how it is that the Lord identifies His apostles with the rebellious Jews, who will be overtaken by the judgment; and since the church is to ascend to Him in the air, how can it happen that two shall be found in the same field in the day of the Son of man? It is true, this will not happen for the church, as it is very certain that it did not happen for the apostles to whom these words were addressed; but in this discourse the Lord speaks to no one individually, but to classes, to certain categories of people. We have an evident proof of it in verse 39 of chapter 23 touching the Jews, and in verse 15 of chapter 24 touching the disciples. "When ye shall see the abomination of desolation," etc. It is certain that the disciples had never seen it; it is even certain, from the book of Daniel, that it refers to the last days. The comparison of the twenty-first verse with the commencement of chapter 12 of Daniel, then the date attached to this event at the end of this last chapter, demonstrate it with the plainest evidence.

51 Thus then, in the twenty-third chapter, as here, the Lord speaks of certain classes of persons: and here, of the faithful remnant of the Jews. It is true that those who composed this faithful remnant at that time were in the enjoyment of privileges far superior to the position here in question; but the Lord is not speaking of this now. He is occupied with the remnant, and He could speak to His apostles under this aspect, because they were in that moment the remnant, and put by the nation in the presence of the rejection of the Messiah, whatever may have been the superior privileges which afterwards they may have individually enjoyed.

All this supposes a gospel of the kingdom, specially preached in the last times; as moreover it supposes persons who will be persecuted for Christ's name's sake, but who, at the same time, will be more or less identified with Jewish hopes, who will even be of the Jewish remnant; and I believe the word tells us so. I see, at the end of Isaiah and of Daniel, chosen ones distinguished from the mass of those who shall be spared; but they are Jews, they occupy themselves with Jewish interests, and they will enjoy the deliverance of this people and the blessings which will result from it on earth. See Dan. 10, 11, 12. Isa. 65, 66. It appears that some will be put to death, whether during the period called the beginning of sorrows, or during the last tribulation.

It is evident that these two classes will have part in the first resurrection; which is also what the Apocalypse, chapter 20, shews clearly. Also, as a principle, this ought to be sufficiently clear. We have said that the same thing is repeatedly found in the Psalms, only much more (as least as a hope) before the great tribulation of the last half-week. But this changes not the destiny of the greater part of these saints. It seems to me (but here I do not go father than that), that those who have been at this epoch faithful witnesses, but without being put to death, will be particularly identified with the Lord Jesus, as King of the Jews upon earth. They will have been, according to the measure given them, that which He Himself was upon earth; that is, a witness in the midst of a people who rejected Him. Of this the Psalms bear the imprint. Only we must add, as a fact, the testimony of the kingdom to the Gentiles; for, if there is place for mercy, the Lord could not strike without a testimony having been previously borne. Until now this preaching has not been assigned to the remnant; it was given only as a sign, as that which is to happen before the end of the age comes, and the Son of man comes down upon the earth; but it is not said that it should be the work of the Jewish remnant. It is a sign which is given them.

52 Definitively we have the commencement of the sorrows, and the counsels and warnings proper to this period; the time of the great tribulation when the abomination of desolation should be set up in the holy place, and the special dangers of that terrible moment; the overthrowing of all the powers of the heavens, the appearing of the Son of man, and the gathering together of the Jews dispersed in all the world. Or, if you will take the thing farther back, the Jews are put aside, and the principles on which the relations of God, whether with them or with the Gentiles, shall be renewed, are in chaps. 14, 15; then in 16 the church; in 17 the glory of the advent of the Son of man; the position of grace and lowliness that Christ took, and that His were to take in the meantime, end of chapter 17, 18; and in general all the principles of the kingdom established by faith, and the ways of God in this respect, to the twenty-eighth verse of chapter 20. It is in this part (and therefore I have made this summary) that we have the individual portion of the apostles, that is, at the end of chapter 19; then the judgment of the nation, or if you will of that generation, in chapters 21 to 23; the exposition of all that concerned the remnant, in chapter 24.

But this leads our divine Master to consider the remnant under another aspect, that the disciples scarce understood then, that is, its relations no longer with Israel and the hopes of this people, but with Himself; in other words, to consider this remnant as charged with His service, as the retinue of His joy, come forth to await His return, or finally, as charged with His interests here below in His absence. This is what follows from chap. 24:45, to 25:30. In the first case, it does but present the position and the effect of fidelity during His absence, and the manner in which unbelief would identify itself with the state of heart which puts off the thought of His return. If, during the absence of the Master, a true service is yielded by the wise and faithful servant (it is not a question here of "good") who keeps his place to accomplish, in care bestowed upon those who compose the household,* that which was entrusted him in the house, blessed is that servant; at the time of the return of the Master, he will be made ruler over all His goods. Here this is a great principle of service to which the apostles were called - true for their service in Christianity, and applicable also for each of us in his place. But the position and the principle only are laid down here. If there was infidelity, if the servant put off the thought of the return of the Master, and went on his way with those who made themselves drunken in the world, he should be counted among the hypocrites and taken in an hour when he least expected it.

{*We may remark here that the service refers to the house or to those who compose the Master's household, and the care which ought to be bestowed on them. If it is to those who formed the church, it is at least to them and to their service in its Jewish character, whether as to a body, or in an interior appropriated to the Lord, as this people was in the world. In the parable of the virgins, it is the expectation of grace, the state of those who went forth to meet Him. The third parable is the activity of service with His goods.}

53 But the Lord pursues farther this general principle, and brings us back to the kingdom of the heavens. At that time here is that to which it would be like. It is not here the church, properly so-called, for the Lord could not present the church as the church in this manner; that is, He could not, in presenting the church as such, compare it to virgins who were in the attitude of waiting, as the retinue of the marriage supper of the Lord, with a bride quite different from the church, and the latter acting no other part than that of the companions of the marriage supper. But the state of the kingdom at this time may very well be compared to such circumstances: in effect, when the Lord will come as Son of man, to execute judgment against the wicked servant, and against Israel, and to receive Jerusalem and the Jewish people as His own, then the kingdom of heaven might be regarded in this point of view; there will be persons who will go out to meet Him; there was that which represented the kingdom. It was not a question of sowing, nor of buying fields, nor of separating good fish; nor was it any more a question of the activity of the kingdom, but of the conduct of those who, having been called, were gone out to meet the Bridegroom. The matter in hand here is not a bride, but the condition of those who wait for the return of the Bridegroom.* And this is what had become of it; the expectation of the Bridegroom was lost: the virgins, at first, had acted after this principle; they could not abandon this position, however unfaithful they might have been to that which they had taken.

{*I believe that if one absolutely wishes to introduce the bride here (and the Lord does not) it is a question about Jerusalem on earth.}

54 Here it will be asked, Does the Lord speak of the church? Is it meant by that, Do these exhortations and these parables apply to you who are members of it? I answer, assuredly so. But the explanation of the word does not stop here. Church is a word which is of all importance. If we search out the use of it in the epistles, we shall see that it is not found in those of Peter, and only accidentally in that of James, and once in 3 John 3, in speaking of the conduct of an individual here below. In the Apocalypse, it is a question of particular churches but never of the church, save in the expression "The bride says, Come." In a word, Paul alone treats of this subject and employs this word, applying it to the unity of the members of Christ, to one sole church, or to one only body. Here we have: The kingdom of heaven shall be like, etc.

The church presents always the idea of a body, on earth during the period of her trial, but united to Christ on high; entirely for Him alone, separated to be His, as a wife to her husband. The kingdom of heaven supposes men on the earth, the government of God exercised over a certain state of things, the reign of heaven which continues the course of government of things here below, although in new circumstances; not in the same manner as in Israel: a government limited in its application, which puts on a particular form, until Christ comes, because He does not yet judge; and this is what gives place, He having been rejected, to the specialities contained in these parables. Nevertheless all those who recognise the authority of Christ are here under their responsibility. Perhaps, in certain cases, they are the same persons as those who compose the church; but they are looked at in another point of view.

Here then the kingdom would be like virgins gone forth to meet a bridegroom who comes to the house of his bride. He supposes them gone forth; but alas! while the bridegroom delays His coming, they sleep and are awakened at midnight by this cry: "Behold the bridegroom." What characterised the state of the kingdom, is, that all had forgotten their vocation; it was not that there were no faithful ones; the wise virgins had their oil in their vessels. But all, wise or foolish in the kingdom, whether the sincere and pious, or whether they deceived themselves, all had lost the sense of their vocation. This great truth, the coming of the Master, had its influence; they are awakened, but to be separated by the arrival and the judgment of the Master. Time enough had been given for the trial of their state, but it was no longer the time to get provided with oil. The return of the Lord, as to our service, is always judgment, and not grace. And here we see that it is not the church as bride, for He takes us with Himself at His advent, as His bride; crowning the work of His grace in power of life and fulness of acceptance.

55 But we shall find that the return of Christ here below, His manifestation, is always matter of judgment and responsibility for Christians as for others. Our rapture whensoever it may come to pass (I am not discussing that now) is always grace and full favour common to the whole church. And it is because His return is judgment that He adds "Watch"; for when He shall be there, it will no longer be the time of grace.

In the first parable we have the contrast between him who served the master humbly, and the heart which said, He delayeth His coming; in that of the virgins, the effect of this delay which should eventually take place, an effect which should be manifested even with the faithful; namely, that the kingdom should be characterised by the complete forgetfulness of the Master's return. However, the great difference was the possession of the oil of grace hidden in the heart, the Spirit of God.

For, in fact, all this would be like a man who, going to a distant country, trusts his goods to his servants, according to their ability; then, after a long interval, he returns. That is to say, the question is as to the fidelity of the servants, when they are left (to outward appearance) to themselves, and that during a long time, so that their heart is put to the proof to see whether it is truly the Master's, if they identify themselves with His interests when there is no appearance of His return; or if they forget Him, as Israel at Sinai, who believed that it was all over with Moses. But here pay attention, that it is not simply the fact of being ready in grace, but the activity which confidence in the Lord inspires. the activity of service in love of persons identified with the interests of Christ, seeking but that, and seeking it with the zeal imparted by that love, not in His presence directed by His eye, but in His absence; in the intelligence and activity which the Spirit gives, and with a knowledge of His thoughts sufficiently intimate to be able to act in His absence. The servants are left to themselves; I do not mean by this that they can do these things without grace. The contrary is sufficiently demonstrated by the case of the wicked servant. But they are placed under responsibility; their condition is put to the trial; all that the Master does is to trust His goods to them. We shall see what they are by the result. Moreover, the question here is not of the moral conduct of the servant, as in the first parable (chap. 24:45), nor of fidelity to a position in which he was actually placed; but of intelligence, of activity, of the good-will of a servant, who has for his spring of action nothing but the mark of confidence which His Master gives him in committing His goods to him.*

{*The difference between this parable and Luke 19, which in the main is the same, is, that there the principle of man's responsibility is brought much more forward; here, the sovereignty and the wisdom of the Master. There are other things which pertain also to the character of this Gospel, but that is the principal. In Luke each receives cities according to his work; here, all enter into their Master's joy. That is necessary where individual responsibility is in question. What was important here was to shew that disciples left as Jews would be in the same joy as their Master, when He should return in glory as Son of man, being no longer a Jew, though fulfilling the promises made to the fathers. But His servants should be in the same position as Himself, not as He had left them when He went away, and His joy would be the glory. Yet it would be found also in accomplishing His promises to His people, however it might have been. But the question was not exactly about possessing cities.}

56 Let us say a few words more on the parable of the talents. Here the servant is called "good and faithful." It is that which occurs during the absence of Christ. He has delivered His goods to His servants; if they have understood His grace, if they have been touched by this mark of His confidence, they will have laboured with that which was given them, or else they will have wronged the character of their Master, not to have had an entire confidence in Him. There was only faithfulness, it is true, in the conduct of the two who had traded; for, why commit goods to them, if it was not to improve them? But the Lord keeps account of it; what He had confided was but a little thing in His eyes; but they had known Him and had been faithful. There was but one heart between Him and them, and now, at His return, they must enter into His joy; one heart in service, and one heart in joy. Also, "many things" were confided to them in His kingdom at the hour of His glory.

57 It is a sweet picture; the heart of the Lord trusts in them for His glory in His absence, and their hearts trust in Him for the result; and at His return their hearts are united in the joy. The heart of a servant on one side, and that of a Master on the other, doubtless, yet of a Master one-hearted with them, whose joy was to bless them, and to extend the sphere of their confidence according to the glory which He will have then acquired. As to His joy, they are to share it. The third servant does not lose the inheritance only; he is cast outside; he had never known his Master. This is what was wanting to him. The circumstances of the service might be the means of proving it, but there was the ground of the affair. Alas! for the details; it is that which happens too often to real Christians, and there is always the history of our failures in our service - we have not known the Master. Confidence in Him was wanting; now, can one know Him without confiding in Him? Nevertheless, to have to do with Christ takes away even the intelligence of ordinary duty from those who do not love Him, because the heart is soured by the consciousness of ill-will, and only regards Jesus as a severe judge. He will have acted toward us according to our faith. Alas, how little it is! but at least the Master is good.

In these three parables we see the history of what occurs as regards those who profess to be His, during His absence and at the time of His return, with respect to their responsibility. Next, I will only add here, that I do not believe that these three parables can be applied to the special testimony of the kingdom which will be borne at the end. The first only speaks of the charge and responsibility in the house towards the people whom the Master had left there. The second does not at all speak of this activity of grace, but of the condition of persons already called to wait for the Lord, the Bridegroom who was to come. The third speaks of those to whom the Lord delivers His gifts when He goes away, telling them that He will return after a long interval: then they will enter into the joy of their Master Himself This last is not a likening of the kingdom of heaven, because it is not a state of things, a complete whole, the object of the care or of the judgments of God; but an individual responsibility, according to that which had been entrusted to each, and in which each also will receive according to what he had done under this responsibility, and according to the confidence that his Master had in him, and that which he himself had in the goodness of his Master.

58 There is no more a question here of the Jews in the latter days, at least in these two last parables; in the last, above all, this is evident; for it is about those to whom Christ entrusted His goods on His departure, and during the long interval which elapses before His return. As to the second, it is a likening of the kingdom of heaven; and the Jews will not go out with intelligence to meet the Lord, nor afterwards slumber in the midst of affliction, forgetting - even the wise - that He may come. Such is at least what it seems to me to be, and its connection with the parable that follows confirms this thought. That there is something analogous, in certain respects, I believe; that is, there will be those of greater intelligence, who will be morally separated from the others, and who will understand. But I do not think that the conditions of the parable can be coherently applied to them. Their state had already been the subject of the Lord's instructions, in speaking of Jerusalem and of the latter days.

We come now to the third part of the discourse: the Lord arrived. This is what our precious Master announces. When the Son of man* (for it is always in this character that He is presented, when He speaks definitely of His presence here, and not merely in that of Messiah, a title in which He had been rejected), when the Son of man, I say, shall come in His glory,** it will not be merely an instantaneous act of appearing. "He will sit upon the throne of his glory"; there will be something permanent there; "and before him shall be gathered all the nations, and he shall separate them, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats." The Gentiles will be thus judged. I do not believe that it is necessary to prove at greater length that what is called the last judgment is not the question here. The Son of man is returned in His glory; He is not sitting on the great white throne, from whose face the heavens and the earth flee away; Rev. 20:11. He is King now; He is about to reign, and not to give up the kingdom. He judges only the living Gentiles, for here there is no question of resurrection. He judges them on a principle inapplicable to the immense majority of those who will appear when God will judge the secrets of the heart; namely, according to the manner in which they shall have received certain messengers of Christ whom He calls His brethren. It is clear this does not apply to those who have lived in paganism before Christ, nor to the immense majority of those who have lived between His advent and His death. In a word, it is Christ who, as King here below, judges the Gentiles that shall be then on the earth - the nations.

{*Perhaps I have not sufficiently brought out this distinction: as Messiah, He came into the midst of the Jews to accomplish the promises made to the fathers, to the family of David, and to the Jews therein; but later on He takes the kingdom in all the extent of His rights as Son of man, to whom the Father had subjected all things. The transition from the one of these positions to the other is often perceptible in the gospel.}

{**All the verses, from verse 31 of chapter 24 to verse 31 of chapter 25, are a parenthesis, and contain moral instructions, based upon preceding revelations: the history, or the continuation of the prophecy, is resumed at verse 31, "When the Son of man shall come," etc.}

59 Let us observe by the way here His tenderness to the Jewish nation. We have trouble to find the judgment of this nation in these chapters!* He speaks indeed of the end of the age, but rather of tribulation than of judgment, of shortening those days for His elect. At His appearing all the tribes of the earth mourn, and He gathers together the elect (Jews) from the four winds. There is chastisement, it is true, but it terminates in blessing: the heart of Christ is busied with the remnant. He had said to the Jews, "Ye shall not see me henceforth until ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." His heart turns in blessing towards the chosen people. Ungodly Jerusalem had filled His eyes with tears, but here He puts an end to her chastisement. There is one who has known to say, "How long?"** Compare Psalm 74:9. The fact is, that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance, that is to say, that God does not change in His counsels with Israel. "In measure, when it shooteth forth, thou wilt debate with it; he stayeth his rough wind in the day of the east wind." Read the whole passage, Isaiah 27:6-9; for "this is all the fruit to take away his sin."

{*In Luke, which is not so much occupied with the Jews, the Lord shews clearly the judgment which will come on the nation and which He Himself will execute (Luke 19:27). The truth, as a warning, had been already given in this Gospel, chapter 21:44.}

{**It is not that He indicates the day. As Jehovah had said to the Lord, "Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool"; so the Lord said, "Ye shall not see me henceforth until." etc. The repentance of the Jews is for His heart the sign that He can see them again and that they also can see Him again. Peter gives them the same sign, in Acts 3. "Be converted . . . so that the times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send Jesus Christ."

We see here the importance of the repentance of the Jews as a nation, for thousands since that time have repented as individuals. This repentance is to have respect to the sent One of God, for it is to be repentance for the sin which has caused their ruin and their rejection. They will say, "Blessed is He that cometh!" a word which follows these, "The stone which the builders rejected is become the head-stone of the corner. This is Jehovah's doing, it is marvellous in our eyes," Psalm 118. This explains also why the Lord, at His coming, has yet a great deal to do to place the Jews in full peace and prosperity, according to the figure of Solomon. This is because He takes up the Jews where He left them, not such as they were in the days of Solomon, or onward to the captivity of Babylon as with Judah. But He can identify Himself with them; this is what He could not do at His first coming, because they would not. He had besides other things to accomplish according to the counsels of God. Now, when they have repented of their last national fault, and they say, "Blessed is He that cometh," He can undertake their cause; and this is what He does, and it is not a small thing. The indignation will have ceased; but the thing is to put the remnant-nation in the possession of all their privileges and all their country. It is the work of Messiah when He is there, and of none other. Zechariah, Joel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, speak of these things. There is then the action of the word of God by the Spirit, on the hearts of the Jews, as Jews, before the appearing of Jesus, which action will leave them Jews; and on the other hand, the acts of power, He having recognised the nation, to put them in possession of all their privileges after the appearing. Read Isaiah 50 and 51 for the first of these things and the transition See Psalms 42 to 49, and Zech. 9. The moment of transition is found in chapter 12. See also Jer. 51:20; Isaiah 41:15, 16; Mic. 4:13; 5; Isaiah 40:10 - 14.}

60 Will there then be no cutting off? Not in the absolute sense. This is what will happen, as may be seen in the last chapters of Isaiah and elsewhere (compare the end of Zech. 13); the majority of the nation will join itself to the Gentiles and will be idolatrous. The unclean spirit which had gone out will return with seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and the last state of that generation shall be worse than the first. They will be joined with Antichrist, and will receive him who will come in his own name. They will thus be the cruel nation (and not the godly or holy nation) of Psalm 43, and they will perish with the apostate Gentiles. The indignation and the chastisement having, along with the testimony of God, separated the remnant, they will no more be counted as the nation, and He will "make of a remnant a strong nation."

61 Where then, in that which the Lord says here, is found positive judgment? It is contained, almost concealed, in these words: "For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered"; a passage which makes allusion, I think, to an expression of the book of Job 39:30, and treats the Jews, who have thus united themselves with the enemies of God, as lost and dead, without wishing to name them anew. It is but a corpse united with the Gentiles, who, haughty as they are, will be judged on earth; for as it is said elsewhere of Babylon: "Strong is the Lord God who judgeth her," likewise strong is He who judgeth them, however they may have despised Him.

Here, in order to make the application of the passage precise, Christ does not merely come, but it is told us that, when He will come, He will sit upon the throne of His glory; whilst it will be as lightning that He will come to put an end to the tribulation and the desolation which the abomination has caused. He had set the faithful servant over all His goods: those who have their portion with the hypocrites, the wicked and slothful servants have been cast outside when they waited not for Him; but here Jesus takes His place upon His throne. There is no more a question nor a doubt about His rights nor about the submission of all to the ends of the earth. He is now "the King" (v. 34).

There are in this scene three classes of persons: the goats, the sheep, and His brethren. The judgment of the two first classes depends on their conduct toward the third. To have done these things to one of His brethren is to have done them to Himself; not to have done them to one of the least of these is not to have done them to Himself. The "brethren," I have no doubt, will be the remnant who will have preached the gospel of the kingdom among the Gentiles; the reception given to those messengers decides the lot of those who appear now in judgment. No more do I doubt that they are Jews who will bear this testimony, and whom Jesus calls His brethren, at this time; as those to whom He spoke, and that, after His resurrection, He calls His brethren, according to Psalm 22. I know very well that the Gentiles were grafted in later, but the Lord speaks according to that which resulted already from the fact that the disciples followed Him at that time rejected; and He employs this expression to mark those who among the Jews should be in the latter days in a kindred position of testimony. In principle, the disciples might apply it to themselves, and the Lord would have them know well that one day He should be King, and all the Gentiles should be forced to appear in judgment before Him, the rejected Messiah, and that they should enjoy all that which the Jews hoped as to the glory of their Messiah.

62 The brethren of Jesus, according to the constant language of the passages where this expression is employed, are the believing Jews, the remnant that believed in the Messiah (it is clear that all the Gentile believers have been admitted to the same privilege); but in this passage Jesus occupies Himself with those who surrounded Him, to encourage and direct them. As King He judges on earth. Those among the Gentiles who received well the brethren of Jesus enjoy, as blessed of the Father, the kingdom He had prepared for them from the foundation of the world; having received the gospel of the kingdom, they enjoy the effect of their faith, namely, the kingdom itself. Those who preached it, having been in the position of Jesus in testimony, will be recognised as His brethren in the blessing. But He is now King come on earth, so that His brethren are recognised here below; those put to death will have part in the first resurrection, but such is not the subject treated of here. The King is on earth, the nations on earth; so that there is nothing which can make it supposed that the brethren spoken of here are of heaven.* There will be those, but here it appears to me that they are rather the messengers of the kingdom, who have been preserved in spite of all the difficulties of the time.

{*There will be heavenly brethren, our hope and joy: if men will insist on the idea that it is they who are in question here, I contest it not. I express my conviction, formed on the study of all the chapter, and of all the Gospel itself, with the instructions which refer to it; but since there is but the word brethren here, and we all admit that the members of the church bear this name in principle, and that thus it depends on spiritual discernment to apply it, each will judge of it according to what is given him; it is not that I doubt; but I do not insist on the thing in comparison with others. See the last chapter.}

63 This kingdom is in the counsels of the Father from the foundation of the world; the church is chosen to be the spouse of Christ before the foundation of the world. The sheep are not called children, but only blessed of the Father. They enjoy eternal life, as those who refused to receive the brethren suffer everlasting pains. It is the final judgment of the Gentiles who will be on earth when Christ shall have established His throne there. Once more, it is not a question here of the resurrection.

Matthew 26, 27

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After having given us the future prospect of the remnant in all respects, the Spirit resumes the history of the events, and presents us with the recital, at once painful and touching, but for us infinitely precious, of the sufferings and of the resurrection of the Saviour. I do not think, dear brethren, of entering into many details of these chapters, because that which is here demanded is adoration, is the heart, rather than exegesis. I will only point out some particular points which belong to the character of this Gospel. And, first, some words on what the Lord says in giving the cup. It is good to remember that we eat the given body of Christ. One with Him in His glorious state, it is not of that we partake in the supper. Enjoying vitally this position infinitely exalted, we remember the sufferings which have purchased it for us; our hearts, our consciences, our souls, are nourished with the broken body; it is to Jesus dead that our thoughts recur, and to a love more powerful than death. If the body had not been broken, as Gentiles we should even have remained strangers as regards the promises, and sinners destitute of all hope.

A living Messiah was the crown of glory for the Jews; but, if He is lifted up from the earth, He draws all men. His broken body is the door for sinners from the Gentiles. On this the heart of the Christian is nourished, not merely as on manna come down from heaven, which typifies Jesus, a man upon earth, nor on Jesus in the heavens (where we are one with Him) - it is there the hidden manna; but on this devoted victim of propitiation which I see brought to the altar, and there sacrificed, slain for us - a victim full of love and of devotedness.

64 I pause before this mysterious scene, where He all alone (for no man could be there save to bend his head and adore) where the victim of propitiation, the man Jesus, presents Himself before the face of Him who, in His offended majesty, comes out to take cognizance of sin, in order that we might find on the tracks of the righteousness of God, which has burst forth and is accomplished, nothing but an infinite and immutable love: the love of the Father, enhanced by the accomplishment of the eternal righteousness to His glory. It is then the precious Saviour, humbled to death, that we have here, His body given (and one could not go lower down), and His blood shed out of His body. In that manifestly it is not a question of Jesus, such as He is at the present time; for He is glorified. This natural life He has left for us. He only presents it to God as a thing already given elsewhere; but He speaks here of a double effect of this blood which He has shed; first, He speaks of it as the foundation, or at least the seal, of the new covenant; and, secondly, as the foundation of the remission of the sins of many. That is, the basis of the new covenant is now laid, and, moreover, it is not a question of an act which relates to Jesus only to shew His obedience: this blood is efficacious for the sins of others. That does not merely secure new privileges, which one enjoys as a Christian, but procures the pardon of the sins of many of the Jews - not only so, but, in a general manner, of many. As to the new covenant, I will say some words here.

The old covenant, it is clear, is the covenant made with the Jews at Sinai. The Gentiles are not there for anything. The new one refers to the old; it will be established really with Judah and Israel, according to the prophecy of Jeremiah (chap. 31:31-34). What then have we to do with the new alliance, we other Gentiles, may we ask ourselves? This is the answer. It is clear that the covenant itself treats with the Jews and with Israel, but upon principles of grace, and based upon blood of perfect efficacy before God. Now, for the moment, Israel is put aside as a nation. It enjoys no covenant.

What then is the state of things with respect to the covenant? It is that the Mediator of the covenant has shed His blood, and thus the basis of the covenant is laid: it is confirmed and established immutable before God. Christ is ascended on high, and we are one with Him, enjoying all the effect which is essentially attached to His person and to His position. We have the blood of the covenant. Those who are called to it exercise the ministry of the new covenant. Our position is to be united with the Mediator of the new covenant, and to enjoy all the privileges which He enjoys Himself, as having it established in His blood; though the covenant is not formed with us, it is established in Him before God, and we, we are in Him here below. What is the consequence of it? We drink of blood. If a Jew had drunk of blood under old covenant, it was death: could a man be nourished on death? It is the fruit of sin, it is his condemnation, it is the wrath of God, as the blood in the body was the life; and a Jew had no right to that. But Christ has suffered death. And can the Christian be nourished on death? Yes; it is salvation, the death of sin, the infinite proof of love. It is his life, the peace of his soul, the deliverance from sin, before God. What a difference! We drink of His blood, the proof of salvation and of grace, and the source of life. Nevertheless it is Jesus dead, of whom it is a question here.

65 There is in Hebrews 13:20, another expression to which allusion may be made: God has "brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant." This shews us that Christ Himself is above, and has been raised according to the efficaciousness of the blood that He has shed to satisfy the glory of God. He, the only and beloved Son of the Father, charged Himself with our responsibility and our sins, and thus with the glory of God in this respect; and if this glory had not been completely satisfied, He could not evidently either rise again, or appear before Him whose majesty required that nothing should fail to the work. But He accomplished this work gloriously, and in that the Son of man has been glorified, and God glorified in Him; and He is ascended on high, not only as Son of God, but according to the efficaciousness of His work, in virtue of which He appears before the Father, the everlasting covenant being thus established in His blood. The question here is not of an old or a new covenant, which refers to particular circumstances, but of the intrinsic and essential worth of the blood of Christ. But perhaps I go too far away from our Gospel; I allow myself to be drawn away by the importance of the subject, and also by the precious worth and glory of the work of Him who has so much loved us.

66 I return now to the more humble precincts of my labour. We see here that the Spirit declares the value of the blood in a general way; it is shed for many for the remission of sins. The Gospel which treats of the kingdom, and of the Messiah in the Jewish point of view, must necessarily shew that the death of Christ had another aspect. In Luke, where this distinction was not obligatory, because of the non-Jewish character of his Gospel, it is said: "My blood which is shed for you." We have then the blood of the new covenant and the remission of sins. The disciples were to drink of it, as they were also to eat of His given body. Such is their portion: to be nourished on the death of Jesus, and to shew it till He come.

Until then, He would drink no more with them of the fruit of the vine. They would be nourished on Him, but He would not be nourished with them. The fruit of the vine is the sign of social joy, "wine which cheereth the heart of God and man," which they continually sprinkled in the burnt-offerings and the peace-offerings, that is to say, of a sweet savour. (See Num. 15:5, 7, 10, where the question is not of offering for sin.) Now, of this fruit of the vine He would drink no more, whilst His disciples should drink abundantly of His death, the true drink, but a drink of separation from sin, and of Christ also, as regards His personal presence; the heavens must receive Him until the time of restitution of all things of which the prophets had spoken. Thus His social life with His disciples here below was closed; it would no more even be renewed after the same manner. They would enter spiritually into the power of His death, and would be one day anew with Him in joy in the kingdom of His Father.

In Luke, this is expressed in a manner a little different. It is said: "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God shall come"; and of the passover: "I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God." Here the things are much more left in general forms, because it is not occupied with the order of the dispensations of God on earth, but with the moral principles which are bound up with the introduction in grace of the new man.

In Matthew 26:53 we have a circumstance which belongs particularly to this Gospel; it was just the right of Jesus, as Messiah, the Son of God, to have angels at His disposal. In chapter 27:25 we have the solemn and frightful execration which this poor blinded people pronounces on itself, and which still weighs upon it to this day - an execration which will nevertheless be blotted out by grace, and the power of this same blood which they shed in their blindness, and which refers specially to the subject of this Gospel: "His blood be on us, and on our children!" Terrible words! O what then the heart of blinded man! Their entire apostasy from their position is more plainly delineated in John, who, besides, always presents them thus, "We have no king but Caesar," say they. Here it is their chastisement, as a nation, from the hand of God, which they invoke upon their head. They are owned in chastisement. Compare Isaiah 40.

67 If the reader compare the account Luke gives us of this moment so solemn to us all, he will find that there they are the moral circumstances which are related; here, those which refer to the degradation of the Messiah. The daughters of Jerusalem lament over Him; His prayer for His murderers, the conversion of the thief are found in Luke. If we examine John, we find the details of the sufferings omitted. The Spirit has there kept that which brings out the dignity of Him who traversed in grace, and according to the glory of His person, whatever might be otherwise His humiliation, those painful but precious moments,* precious for the present, as well as for eternity; for it is with the glory of His person, as Son of God, that the Gospel of John is specially occupied.

{*There is not what is found in Matthew 26:37-45, nor verse 67, etc., nor chapter 27:46, nor verses 39-44, or the parallel passages in Mark and Luke. In place of that, we have John 18:4-9, 1l; 19:28-30, or in place of "expired," Mark 15:37, we have "delivered up his Spirit," John 19:30; it was the act which He did (according to John 10:18), knowing that all was finished.

Compare also chapter 19:7-8, and the character of all the discourses of the Lord, whether before the high priest, or before Pontius Pilate, in the two Gospels.}

I will not pause longer on these circumstances, but I invite my brethren to meditate upon them. The more we are penetrated with them, the more also our poor and feeble hearts will appreciate the Saviour whom we love, but whom no one knows as He is worthy of being known. There are yet, in this chapter 27, the circumstances of verses 52, 53; circumstances important in this respect, that they bear testimony to the manner in which the Spirit of God treats Jerusalem, as being the holy city, when it is completely abandoned as regards the judgment of God. It may be forgotten for a moment, trampled under the feet of the Gentiles; but if the eye of God takes cognizance of it, in His eyes it is ever the holy city. The bodies of the saints come out of their graves after the resurrection of Jesus, and enter into the holy city. The death and resurrection of Jesus had abolished for heaven the middle wall of partition; but this does not hinder it (though, as regards His government, God had given up to chastisement the holy city, because it was not holy) from always keeping in His eyes that position; for He has chosen Jerusalem, and He will not repent of it. The same thing is seen in Daniel (compare especially chapter 9): faith thinks and speaks always thus.

Matthew 28

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We have in this chapter the account of the service which the angel renders to the Messiah, as also some remarkable circumstances to point out. The evangelist in no way occupies himself with the greater part of the details of the forty days that ran out after the resurrection. Each Gospel is the deposit of what refers to a special aim of the Holy Spirit, for the glory of Christ is diverse.

The only thing recounted by the Lord here is His interview in Galilee with His disciples, an interview which sets them in the position of testimony which He left them as Messiah, now the depository of all power in heaven and on earth. The invention of the unbelief of the Jews to keep their minds still in blindness is related to us. This is all that remained to tell of the Jews as a nation, so that if we take away the last feature, we have only this: the angel says to the disciples to go into Galilee, that they may there see the Lord. Jesus says the same thing to the women, in order that they might tell it to the disciples, now "His brethren." There had He been continually with them during His life; there the light was to have appeared for the time of distress; there the Messiah found a refuge at the time of the pride of Jerusalem (compare John 4 and all the history of the Gospels); the disciples were themselves of that country. All the associations of Jewish ideas, as regards the relations of the disciples with Christ in the midst of the Jewish people, were there. He had acted on Jerusalem, but this was now closed. He had been rejected. The law will go out from thence, when He shall have returned in power. "There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer"; but for the time He had done with Jerusalem as regards His Messianic testimony. Further, it must be remarked that the ascension of Jesus is not related here, but solely His relations with His disciples, relations continued after His resurrection and upon this principle, that all power is given unto Him in heaven and on earth.

69 The Lord has already renounced Jerusalem, saying that it should see Him no more till it repented. Jerusalem, or at least its chiefs, had cried, His blood be on us, and on our children. He takes no more cognizance of it here for the moment; in principle, His disciples were the remnant of the people. As acting from on high, He sends the gospel to Jerusalem; but it is the subject of Luke's Gospel, and of the book of the Acts, which is the continuation of it (see Luke 24:46-53); it is there the grace of heaven, which kept to the promise of the Holy Spirit. Compare Acts 1:1-9.

Here it is the power of Messiah already rejected at Jerusalem. The apostles were to go and instruct all nations, baptizing the disciples in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all that He had commanded, and He would be with the apostles even unto the end of the age. Let us examine a little their mission according to these words, comparing it with those which were given them in the other Gospels.

Here are the terms of these diverse missions. In Mark, who bears testimony to the ministry, to the service of Christ in the gospel, it is said to them, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Here is the most simple, the most general mission, and it is added, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." It was quite simply the preaching of the gospel for the salvation of souls, and the judgment of those who would not believe.

Here is the mission in Luke, the gospel which gives us grace, which introduces the new man and Christ in this character, "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high." Here it is intelligence and power, this last being the consequence of the exaltation of Jesus on high, and the disciples being bound to tarry at Jerusalem until they were endowed with it. As witnesses of Jesus, the disciples could not depart from the place of His rejection until they were linked with Jesus at the right hand of God, and thus, by the power of the Holy Ghost, bore testimony from Him, as being there above. A thing wholly new! it was the Son of man proceeding from Adam in a certain sense, but a new man and near to God: also, a new testimony is borne and recommences with Jerusalem - a testimony which thence shall reach men in all nations, according to the power of the Holy Ghost. It is a heavenly testimony. This, as we have said, is resumed in the Acts, God having been forced to recommence it with Paul at Antioch, because of the incredulity of Jerusalem once more reiterated.

70 In John 20:21, we find their mission. Jesus says to them, "Peace be unto you! As my Father has sent me, even so send I you; and when he had said this, he breathed on them and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained." Here the thing is closer. Jesus is not yet ascended on high, but He has, according to the power of the resurrection, the life of God in Him; put to death as to the flesh, quickened according to the power of God in Spirit, He communicates to them life according to the power of the Spirit. Vitally they are one spirit with Him; for it was as man that He possessed it, although He was the power of God. Thus God breathed into the nostrils of Adam, and he became a living man. Now the last Adam is a quickening Spirit, but as He, according to the power of this life, has been sent of the Father, administrator, as man, of the pardon that man quickened by Him needed to possess to be in relation with God (compare Luke 5:20, 24), so now He sent His disciples, made partakers by Him, and with Him of this life, to discharge from Him this office, to bear this pardon to men, and to render them partakers of it; a pardon which, by His death and resurrection, was now completely effected before God, and administered on earth according to the power of the Spirit of life, whether in receiving into the church those who should be saved, and who, being thus received, possessed this pardon; or whether, in the second place, in administering discipline. This administration of pardon received and possessed, following the exercise of this discipline, by him who is the object of it, is in the hands of every man in whom Christ has breathed His Spirit according to the degree of the power of this Spirit in him. And the pardon here spoken of is not a pardon looked at as granted in heaven, but a pardon administered on earth and ratified in heaven.

71 The apostles did that according to the perfection of the gift of God which was granted them; but we have in the word the revelation of this so important administration, according as it has been communicated to all the saints by the order of God. First, individual charity covers thus a multitude of sins; that is, in pardoning the wrongs in my brother, his sins no more exist, with regard to the government of God, as scandals and offences in the church: before His eyes love has completely displaced them. Such is the individual privilege; but this is not yet the official administration of the thing; on the contrary, it anticipates the exercise of it.

In the examples of Ananias and Sapphira, and even of Simon the magician, sins were retained. They were remitted - I say not in the same manner, but de facto--to three thousand persons on the day of Pentecost. In 2 Corinthians 2:10 we have the sins remitted by the apostle and by the church, officially, in the exercise of discipline. That is, we have, as to this pardon, the apostolic mission, distinct from the church - a mission specially confided to the apostles, as delegated of Christ with His authority; and the administration of this pardon, communicated to a church without intermediary, the church counselled and directed in this administration, but accomplishing the act herself.

I should not have enlarged so much on this subject, if this passage did not present a difficulty which often pre-occupies the mind, and of which adversaries lay hold while the faithful do not very well know how to answer. It is then not only the pardon of sin granted by God Himself, according to a truth revealed by the Holy Spirit; it is an administration of this pardon confided to man, a pardon thus revealed on earth, confirmed perhaps, and sometimes demonstrated, by miracles, or accompanied by a deliverance or a chastening sent from God. It was an administration confided to the apostles, who were sent to gather the church introduced into her privileges by this pardon; and afterwards exercised by the church herself to maintain her members in the holy enjoyment of these privileges, and at the same time to sustain the glory of God. In the fact of chastening, where the question is neither of pardon in the sense of which we speak, nor of the official act of pardon, but simply of the efficacy of prayer; compare James 5:14, 15.

72 I do not in any wise touch the question, What has been the effect of the actual state of the church on this administration? Apostolic delegates of this kind, there are absolutely no more. As to all the rest, it is a question of intelligence and spiritual power; but it is important to understand enough of these things to be ready to answer the pretension to forgive sins, of men who would allege, perhaps without scruple, the verses of James, of which we speak, which do in no wise belong to them.

Doubtless, God, by His grace, will keep the simple from such pretensions, and that from other motives; but it is well to have an answer. The Lord has meant to say something, and if we know what He meant to say, men cannot lead us astray and shut our mouths to make us fall into their snares. There is pardon administered here below, whether by apostles, or by the whole body; and a priest or a minister has nothing at all to do therein. If he is wise enough to give spiritual counsels, it is well; but it is not he who acts. The Holy Spirit is needed for this act. "Receive ye the Holy Spirit; to whomsoever," etc. The judgment of a body which flows not from that is perhaps a very suitable act for a human society, but which is not pronounced on the part of God; and if one speaks of acting by the Holy Spirit, this will be demonstrated in other things also.

I return now to the mission given in Matthew, having only considered the others in order the better to seize the difference. It is not here then the Son of God, sent from the Father, who sends, according to the power of life which is in Him, disciples to whom He can communicate the energy of this life, that they may accomplish their mission according to His heart of love filled by the Father. Neither is it Jesus, minister of the gospel, servant of all, sending those who are to replace Him, that every creature may hear the good news, which can now be addressed to them in His name who has fulfilled all things - such is the Jesus of Mark.

73 Neither is it the Son of man, raised to the right hand of the Father, who is about to give the Holy Spirit of power, in order that His sent ones may answer, in their work, to the exalted position that man occupies in His person (compare Psalm 68; Eph. 4), and who has already* opened their understanding that they may understand the scriptures, or the revelation of the thoughts of God, in the economies and dispensations on which this work and this presence of the Holy Spirit will cast their light. That is the exalted Christ of Luke, giver of the Holy Spirit.

{*It appears to me that an example of this is found in the choice of Matthias, before the gift of the Holy Spirit - a choice based on the explanation of Psalm 109; an explanation of which, it would seem to me, the disciples would have been incapable before that time, but the act itself had nothing in it of the power of the Holy Spirit. They draw lots, as Jews, after having understood this Psalm. Though we have received the Holy Ghost, it is of importance for us to distinguish between the understanding (though it were a gift) and power. It is evident, from the end of Luke and the commencement of the Acts, that a person may have the one and not have the other.}

But here, in Matthew, we have a rejected crucified Messiah, who, for the moment, abandons Jerusalem to its folly and its sin, and who, now risen, sends to the nations the message that His death, His resurrection, and the gift of the Father to Him risen, have enabled Him to put into the mouth of His disciples a message (no longer suitable to the Jews, who have already rejected the subject of it, their Messiah). It is no longer simply the only true God in His unity, surrounded by a people which should have kept this good and precious deposit. Now, other things in God had been put in the light for men, things which opened the door to the Gentiles, or rather which could be sent to them. Christ could not be there without the Son being named, and if the Son, then the Father and the Holy Spirit (the Holy Spirit, who acted with efficacy in the communication of the knowledge of the Father and of the Son); and, on the other hand, both the Father and the Holy Spirit had been necessarily manifested in Christ and His acts, while He lived and acted on earth; for in being Messiah, He was also Son, and it was because He called Himself such that the Jews rejected Him.

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, all this could be sent in grace to the Gentiles. The disciples were to make them know the Messiah and the God of the Jews in this manner, or to make them enter into relation with God under this name, as by circumcision the Jews were put in relation with the Eternal or Jehovah; and this because all power was now given to Jesus in heaven and upon earth. Here is then (the rights of the Messiah being rejected by the Jews) not the establishment of the throne of David, whose influence should spread over all the earth, but He who, depository of all governing power in heaven and on earth, sent His disciples to put the Gentiles (nations) in relation with God, according to the revelation of that which was no longer hidden behind the veil from the eyes of the blind Jews, the Trinity of persons which faith recognised by means of Jesus: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.*

{*There was, in this, a revelation evidently much clearer, and relations different from those which the Jews enjoyed, as the people of Jehovah. These terms were not entirely unknown to the Jews; but they were always employed by the prophets in the prospect of the times when there would be this clearer revelation to call the Gentiles, and when blessing would be manifested for the Jews in a new measure. "Kiss the Son" is a summons to the kings of the earth in Psalm 2, and the promise of the outpouring of the Spirit, whether upon the Jews and their posterity or upon all flesh, is sufficiently known. See, amongst others, in Joel; in Isa. 44:3; see also chap. 48:16. Before the accomplishment of these things, or at least before they are fully accomplished to the letter, the revelation has been made of what is their foundation in God, and this name of Father, of Son, and of Holy Spirit has been proclaimed amongst the Gentiles. I do not think that it is here the unity of the Son with the Father, and of the church with Jesus by the Holy Spirit (that is taught elsewhere); but the revelation of the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the submission of the Gentiles by faith, in anticipation of that day when the Son will be manifested in power, and the Holy Spirit fully shed abroad. But this is very precious for us, because it shews us these things in God, and makes us see that there are not only certain acts of manifestation which will take place hereafter, but the truth of God, of which one can speak before these manifestations take place. For the knowledge which the Jews and the earth will have of the Son, for example in His reign according to Psalm 2 is very inferior, it seems to me, to the knowledge which we have of Him, as being in the Father and the Father in Him, one with the Father, hidden in God. It is the same person, undoubtedly, but we have a much deeper knowledge of what He is. Further, we learn, in thus comparing Psalm 2, that the preaching of the name of the Son does not necessarily suppose the blessings of the church: now it does, because God gathers the church in Him; but the call made to the kings to submit to the royalty of Christ in the last times is made in the name of the Son, "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry." We have acknowledged Him before through grace, and we know Him as one with the Father. In this Psalm it is spoken of Him as presented to the world in time, "To-day I have begotten thee."}

74 But this mission depends on the power of Jesus as being given, and is to subject the nations that they may be His disciples, according to the claims that this power conferred on Him. It was a mission belonging yet to the age, which, though the Messiah had been rejected, was not yet terminated; it looked consequently at the submission of the Gentiles to the Messiah, in a new way, it is true, and left Jerusalem aside, because it had rejected the Messiah; but it supposes a going forward in the ways of God towards the end of this age, before which the gospel is to be preached in the whole habitable world. Those who carried this message might have higher privileges, which would be made evident when the Lord would be removed, and their first testimony rejected; those same messengers, individually, might be charged, from the commencement, with the message of the grace which was in Jesus, according to the other forms of mission that we have seen in the three other Gospels: they might preach the gospel to every creature, beginning at Jerusalem as representatives of Him who was exalted at the right hand of God, or remit the sins, on the part of Him who said, "Peace be unto you"; but it is none the less true that the speciality of the mission found in this Gospel is a mission to the nations from Jesus, speaking as the rejected Messiah, who has now all power, leaving aside Jerusalem, and mentioning the continuation of this age; promising to be with the witnesses to the end of this age, and saying nothing, either of the church, or of heaven, or of the Holy Spirit given, or of the deliverance from this present evil age, or of the privilege of not being of this world as the Son of God was not of it; but speaking of subjecting the Gentiles to the ordinances of Christ, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to bring the age to its close, according to the promise of Him who should be with them till then.*

{*One may examine Psalm 95 (and also Psalms 91 to 100), which treats of these times, as well as Daniel 11:33 and 12:3, 9; Isaiah 65:13, etc., where, however, the testimony is rather practical than in word. Here is the connection of this subject in Isaiah, which may interest those who search the word; and it is only for such that I give it.

God desires to comfort His people (Isaiah 40); and in the midst of present deliverances (pledges of better ones to come), the servant, Christ, is introduced, chap. 42. Israel should have been so, but was blind; nevertheless he should be delivered, being forgiven. Cyrus and Babylon pass then before our eyes, to the end of chapter 48, the pledge of better deliverances, as we have said. God announces, notwithstanding, that He distinguishes the wicked: there is no peace for them.

Chapter 49, the Gentiles are summoned by Israel as called of God to be a servant, in whom God should be glorified. Thereupon the Messiah says, "I have then laboured in vain"; nevertheless His judgment and work were with God. The Spirit answers that it was a small thing to raise up Israel, that He should be a light to the Gentiles. From that time it is Christ, the true vine, who holds the promises as a faithful servant. Chapter 50 explains the dismissal of Israel for the rejection of Christ, Jehovah God who had made Himself a servant; and thereupon is brought out the distinction of the remnant who fear Jehovah and obey the voice of His servant, not here the church in the joy of the Son, though that has been true of a certain number from among the remnant In these passages the church finds itself only as hidden in the person of Christ Himself; which will be seen in comparing Isaiah 50:8, 9, and Romans 8:33, 34, where the apostle applies to the church the substance of those verses which speak of Christ in Isaiah. I will observe, by the way, that the Lausanne translation, in general very faithful to the letter, has spoilt these verses in the form it has given to them. Here, I believe, is the true contrast. God justifies; who shall condemn? Christ is dead, etc.: who shall separate us from the love of Christ? The Old Testament does not take up the union of Christ and the church: here it is the remnant that obey the voice of the servant of God, of Christ, come as Messiah here below. Nevertheless the obedient walk in darkness. Consolation is given them, a consolation properly Jewish, by calls (chap. 51:1-4, 7), in which there is progress in their position (v. 9). They themselves call, by the Spirit of prophecy, the arm of Jehovah to awake. He answers at last (v. 17), summons Jerusalem to awake in her turn, and (chap. 52) to clothe herself with glory and honour. This passage, ending at verse 12, is all beautiful. Chapters 52:13, and 53 give the expiatory character of the work of the "servant," recognised by the Jews in the latter days. Then come the details of blessings (chaps. 54, 55, 56, 57), and of the ways of God, and of what hinders, namely, the deep iniquity of the people in the latter days.

From chapter 58, testimony is strongly borne to this iniquity, which finally forces Jehovah to arise (chap. 59:15, 16, etc.), and the Deliverer comes to Sion according to Romans 11:26. Then in chapter 60, Jerusalem is glorified, and the same subject (introducing, in order to identify His person in the two advents, what Christ was at His first, chapter 61:1, and the first half of verse 2), and the judgment of the Gentiles, are treated to the end of chapter 63:6. Then, upon the touching call of the prophet, there is a detailed explanation of all their ways, how grace had seized the occasion, given by the folly of Israel, to be found of those who sought it not, whilst He had ever stretched out His hands towards rebellious Israel (quoted by the apostle, Romans 10:20, 21), which explains these same points. And here, finally, we find a special remnant (all those who are spared; see Isaiah 66:19, 20), treated as the "servants" to whom the blessing of all the nation would be a particular subject of joy. Such is what has led us to this summary of the latter part of this prophetic book: the special remnant owned of God, but having all its affections in the well-being of Jerusalem and of Israel. One may, for the last testimony to the Gentiles, compare Psalm 97 and Revelation 14:6, 7.

The key of this summary of Isaiah 40-48 is Israel the servant: - nevertheless, no peace for the wicked. Christ, the true servant, is rejected. The remnant, true servants, are owned in that; they obey the voice of the "servant," but in prospect of Jewish interests. Translate chapter 49:3, "Thou art my servant, O Israel, he in whom I will be glorified."}

76 That this might have an application to the unreported labours of the apostles, I doubt not; but the Bible furnishes us with no tokens on that head, at least if it be not, in the most indeterminate manner, in the last verse of the Gospel of Mark. That which the detailed history of the Acts presents us with is the fulfilment of the mission given in Luke, the rejection of the messengers at Jerusalem, where they nevertheless remained; then the labours of Peter in the midst of the Jews, and a new apostle raised up of God, to carry the word to the Gentiles by a new revelation of Jesus, so new indeed that he says, if he had known Jesus as the others had known Him, he knew Him no more after that manner. The salvation preached remained ever the same, without doubt, but with new light which God accorded.

What is the conclusion which one should draw from all this? It is, that there will be an accomplishment of this mission before the end of the age, and that the message of the gospel, here entrusted to the remnant, to the disciples, will be carried from Christ, of whom it remains always true (whatever be the state of things) that all power is given unto Him in heaven and on earth. From Christ, I say, acting in this character, the message of this same gospel will be carried to all the nations, and Christ will be with the messengers even to the end of the age.

77 The testimony to Jerusalem will be different, it seems to me; we have already said some words on it in chapter 24. I do not speak of the conversion of such or such a Jew to make part of the church, which is another thing far more precious; it is the duty of each day to teach them, according to what is given us, as it is also to preach the gospel to every creature. But as there will be a testimony at the beginning of the sorrows (as there was one in the Jewish nation at the beginning of the gospel), a testimony which will be particularly addressed to the Jewish people; so there will be a special testimony borne to the Gentiles at the end, according to the principles of the mission here entrusted to the disciples. For the promise of the presence and succour of the Lord is not only bound up with the idea of the age, but it extends to its end, and we must always remember that here, as in chapters 13 and 24, "the age" in no way applies to Christianity as an epoch. Though Christianity might happen, and did happen, before the end of the age, the age already existed at that moment, and was in a great measure run out; it was a period of the world's history in the Jewish point of view, which the presence of the Messiah was to terminate.

78 Perhaps, employed in all the force of the term according to the circumstances in which the Lord spoke, this expression supposes Jerusalem existing but rejected, and, though rejected, the object of the thoughts of God, but of His thoughts in judgment, God going to put an end to all that, and after great tribulations, to restore the city in blessing by the coming of the Messiah in glory. The gospel, sent to the Gentiles, might run independently of all that, for Jesus entrusts it to the disciples outside Jerusalem, and as having abandoned it. Nevertheless, till it was judged and restored by the coming of the Messiah, and after the repentance of its inhabitants, the age could not end; so that when we have well considered the passages, we have here a gospel or mission of the disciples, independent of Jerusalem, from Messiah rejected here below, but having received all power in heaven and on earth; a gospel addressed to the Gentiles, Jerusalem being abandoned, to make of these nations disciples of Christ in the name, not of Jehovah, but of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; a mission, nevertheless, which (though independent of Jerusalem and coming from Christ, who had quitted it until it repent) is identified with the course of an age here below, which supposes, before its end, Jerusalem the object of God's thoughts and judgments (that is, Jerusalem under the Jewish point of view), and the centre of all His thoughts, in judgment or in blessing, whilst this same gospel is propagated among the nations. For before the end of the age (supposed here by the Lord to be still in existence) Jerusalem will be all that anew (as it was so at the time the Lord was speaking), and yet more. It is a gospel, then, which may subsist among the nations at the same time that Jerusalem is the object of God's thoughts, and anew the centre of all His ways.

79 One may suppose that the preaching of this gospel begins before that is manifested. Nevertheless these were the circumstances in which the Lord already was speaking. Jerusalem standing, abandoned,* the object of the thoughts and judgments of God, and afterwards of His blessing; and Christ awaiting the time of this end of the age, sending the gospel to the nations by His disciples, independently of Jerusalem, but by the side of its existence in this state, and transporting Himself, as to the term of the testimony, to the epoch which should terminate this state of things in Jerusalem, by the manifestation of the judgment of God and the blessing which should thence ensue and flow out. We have already seen (chap. 25) the Gentiles judged on earth, according to the manner in which they shall have treated the messengers which Christ calls His brethren, as Jesus here calls His disciples, and we have seen the preliminary and final circumstances in Palestine and at Jerusalem (chap. 24), accompanied by a declaration (by the side of all that) that this gospel of the kingdom should be preached in all the world, as a testimony to all the Gentiles, and that then the end will come - the end of the age which is in question here. I invite my brethren to think of this testimony, which is to be borne in the latter days; it would be to explain prophecy rather than the gospel to pursue this subject farther here. I desired to point it out, as this Gospel does so.

{*Perhaps there may be trouble to reconcile these two ideas,"abandoned," and yet "the object of the thoughts and judgments of God"; but it is precisely the position of Jerusalem in the latter days, when His work recommences with the earth. It will be desolate and abandoned until it says, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of Jehovah!" But God acts with it in testimony, in chastisement, in indignation. Such was already the case in the time of the apostles. In chapter 23 of this Gospel, it was abandoned. Nevertheless the testimony and indignation are there. See upon that, in Zechariah, specially the end of chapter 11 and the beginning of chapter 12, and all his prophecy; the end of Daniel 9; 11 and 12 also, and Isaiah 65, 66; see also Jeremiah 30:4, 8, etc. In these chapters, and in so many others, Jerusalem is not owned, but it is the object of God's thoughts and ways; according to the expressions as to Ephraim Jeremiah 31:20, and as to Jerusalem itself, Isaiah 49:14, etc. The fact is that Jerusalem is chosen as the Jewish people. Psalm 132:13, 14.

We have a principle which is bound up with this, and which is very precious in its analogy for us. God, at the time of the Babylonish captivity, had written, Lo-Ammi, not my people. Notwithstanding that, in Haggai 2:5 we find that the Spirit remained with them, as when they came out of Egypt. What encouragement for us, whatever may be the state of the church! If they had said, No, we are not in this state of Lo-Ammi, it would have been unbelief; if they had been discouraged, as if the Spirit was not with them, as at the departure from Egypt, it would have been practical unbelief also under another form. In the two cases, faith in the goodness and in the chastisement of God would have been lost.}

80 Here is the result of my researches at this time upon this Gospel; a result very imperfect, I feel, and researches which have made me feel how far we are still ignorant of all the ways of God; but which may aid my brethren to make others, perhaps, more happy and better followed up; and, if they are led to make them and are as happy as I in thus sounding the ways of God, I shall not have lost my trouble in communicating to them these, such as they are.

In the main, I do not doubt that the great principles, the thread of the ways of God (in this part of His ways) are found in these pages, and that, as a whole, it was given by Him. It is very possible that in some details my own mind has wrought, and that thus I may have overstepped the measure of what was given me; in this case there will certainly be error, or at least obscurity, even when all I have said is understood. On the other hand, those who have not yet taken the trouble to sound the scriptures ought not to be astonished if they find some things still difficult and obscure for them in these pages. They ought not to be discouraged, like a child who should plunge into the middle of a book which he ought to begin, and which he might judge too difficult; but they should set about the work, beginning with the beginning. They will find, let them be assured, many proofs of their ignorance, and very humiliating proofs; but they will also find the Lord with them, and a joy and a satisfaction of which they have not even the idea, not in the things only, but in the fact of being taught of Him; a joy and satisfaction which sanctify and attach to Him who deigns thus to be busied about our instruction, to endure with patience our ignorance, and to instruct us Himself in the truth. And how sweet is this converse with Him, in which He gently leads us on in the knowledge of His ways and unveils for us in His word all the goodness and wisdom of His counsels! Is it not evident that such converse, pursued in such a spirit, must sanctify the soul?

81 Let us remember that all this belongs to children, to those who, by the power of the good news of the pure grace of God, are grounded in the work which this grace has accomplished and rejoice in the confidence which His love inspires; the communications of His ways being for them daily proofs of this love, which nourish and maintain this confidence, and make them to know better Him, who is its object and source. May His Spirit and His grace direct all those who read these pages in the enjoyment of the everlasting salvation which He has accomplished for us!