Matthew's Gospel

J. N. Darby.

Chapter  3-4
Chapter  5-7
Chapter  8
Chapter  9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Section B
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28

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The presenting of God's grace in the Person of the Lord, in the Gospel of Matthew, brings before us in a very striking way, how the blessed Lord took our place, and was a pattern of ours in the relationship into which He has brought us by redemption, whether of blessing or conflict, only overcoming for us. Many, many passages shew His grace in it, but in this He takes the place itself. I refer to the end of Matthew 3 and beginning of Matthew 4. The law and the prophets were till John. Then the kingdom of heaven, as presently coming in, was announced. There was repentance for the people, but a new thing to be set up. The first step in good was receiving the testimony and coming to that repentance; and their hearts, touched by grace, go.

The gracious Lord could not let His people take one step alone. He goes to be baptized by John. He, I need not say, needed no such baptism. So John receives Him: "I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?" The Lord answers, "Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him." In Him it was fulfilling righteousness. Still He takes the lowly place. You, John, have your part to do, I mine. "Us" is not, I believe, a plural of dignity, though it is not of much moment; it refers to John as to Jesus: compare chapter 17:26-27, a beautiful example of the same grace, only there He shines out as a divine Person. The Lord does not identify Himself with rebellious and perverse Israel, but with the path of God, and those who were walking in it, but He makes Himself one of them when they had taken it. The word of God entered into the ear, and led the heart of His perfect servant as fulfilling all righteousness; the blessed Son of God. He has now taken His place amongst the godly and upright though feeble sons of men, the remnant according to the election of grace in Israel. His person and personal perfectness was there, but among them according to the will of God; and He gives us the pattern and model of that into which we are introduced by redemption according to the counsels of God. When He comes up out of the water, having taken this place, He stood according to the perfect will of God as man before Him. Here heaven must respond. Lo, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Holy Ghost descending upon Him.

128 Heaven may have been opened in glorious visions of the judicial throne or the like, but never before had there been an object upon earth to which they could be opened. Divine favour might rest on Abraham, and God visit him in grace, and Enoch who walked with God find a lonely way (once indeed though in a different form followed by Elijah) into heaven; but never were the heavens opened before to man upon the earth: now they were. Further, this blessed man was sealed* and anointed** with the Holy Ghost and with power. Thirdly, the Father owns Him, a man, as His beloved Son. Now this is all our place, of which He is here the type and pattern. Heaven is open to us, the veil rent from top to bottom, the way into the holiest open. We are sealed and anointed with the Holy Ghost, and the Father owns us as sons, loved even as Jesus is loved: only we of course have it through redemption and faith in Him; He was in it personally. But He gives us the full and blessed pattern of the place in which we stand. Our connection with Him in it, and His own taking it, its being His place, is not its least blessed feature.

{*John 6:27.}

{*Acts 10:38.}

Nor is this all. Here, in the Lord's taking this human place yet of full acceptance, the Trinity is first fully revealed. We find indeed remarkable intimations of it in the Old Testament, for the Son in Psalm 2 is Jehovah; people are to trust in Him; and the Spirit, I need not say, is continually mentioned. But it cannot be said it was clearly revealed. That was the effect of Christianity when the Son and the Spirit had come, and the Father was fully revealed in Him, and to us made sons. And in connection with His person it is so here. The Son was there as man, the Holy Ghost came upon Him, and the Father's voice came from heaven to own Him Son. What a wonderful connection for us to see Him identified with us, or rather ourselves with Him, and that in this place, He being Son, the whole Trinity comes out revealed, and in that He is a man. Take, as an example of the effect, 1 John 2:28-29; 3:1-3; where the Godhead and manhood are spoken of in one sentence of the same person, only taking up each side as suited; but we are so identified with Him that, though glory be not revealed, this much is certain as to it, that when He shall appear we shall be like Him. Is not this a wonderful connection? If He was Jehovah's delight, rejoicing always before Him, His delight was in the sons of men.

129 Many such cases, and even reasonings from it, may be found in scripture. However, such is the Son's place as man, the model place for us. It is a blessed thought, and how precious becomes His love. Still remark how the person of the Lord is maintained in its glory. Heaven is opened to us as to Him; but when it is opened, is there any object on which His eye is fixed to give heaven its character to Him, and form Him after it as in Stephen, and to saints in their measure of faith? If heaven is opened, He is the object of it. It looks at Him, seals Him, owns Him here. He could not be on earth without heaven being opened on Him, the supreme object of every thought there. This we continually see. On the Mount of transfiguration Moses and Elias are in the same glory as Christ, and confer familiarly with Him of what was first in the counsels of God; but the moment Peter would put them on a level in some sort with the Lord, they disappear, and the Father's voice owns Him as the Son, His Son who was to be heard; and Jesus was found alone. So ever. Here then, the Lord having associated Himself with His people, we have the place into which He has brought them, Himself the model of it. It is His place. He is now gone to His Father, and our Father, His God, and our God.

But the blessed and gracious Lord has fully entered into our case, the place of His people, and He now takes that in which they are in conflict with Satan, as well as that in which they are in relationship with God. Thus anointed as man, He was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Many things here suggest themselves to the mind: the difference of the position of Adam and Eve, when they were tempted; the difference of the character of the forty days during which Moses and Elias were estranged, so to speak, from the common lot of humanity; but I confine myself here to the great fact of the temptation, and the Lord's undergoing it, as the other side of our position from our relationship in Him with God. Only remark that the temptation follows this. That is fully established, and it is as anointed therein of the Holy Ghost that He enters into it. The tempter comes to Him. The point of His temptation was to lead Him out of the place He had taken as man, and first out of that of obedience, or of a servant, His perfect place as man. If Thou be the Son of God, use your authority, speak so that these stones become bread. In a word, do an act of your own will, since you are nothing less than Son of God. But the blessed Lord holds fast to the simple place of obedience, of the servant, of man, but perfect Man.

130 But several things are to be noted here. First, He has no need to go farther than His own duty, no long controversy or reasoning with Satan. The latter comes with wile; but deceit has no place in simple duty, and the Lord, as a servant, occupies Himself with that, and it is enough. Next, God's will is His motive for acting, not merely His rule. That of course it was, but His motive also: an important principle. It is not selfwill arrested by a rule even cheerfully submitted to. The obedience of Christ has the will of God for the source of His actions. Thirdly, the word of God, the scriptures, are the adequate, complete, and sufficient expression of this for man. He quotes a text and that is all. But that is all God's will expressed for man. Man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

Wondrous expression! It is divine, absolutely so in its source and character, out of God's mouth, but perfectly adapted for man to live by. There is nothing like that; only Christ is the living expression of it - the Word made flesh. Man may talk very high about it, as the foolish slave of the enemy, deceived by him; but a single text is enough for Him who is the Wisdom of God, the Lord, and enough for Satan, so that he has no reply. It gave Christ His place as man, and with that Satan could do nothing. He betrayed himself and his weakness if he suggested anything contrary to it. Scripture is enough for the Lord Himself, for man here below, and for the devil. It comes from the mouth of God and man lives by it. Christ guarantees this to us.

And note the occasion. Be it so, He could not fail; but He went through the trial. All depended on His victory. If the second Man had failed for man, there was no hope; but a text is sufficient: by it He gains an absolute victory. There was no reply to it. On the authority, truth, sufficiency, and suitableness of scripture, the victory on which all hope for man depended was founded and won. The last Adam had prevailed, and prevailed by it; Satan succumbed, and succumbed to it: only it was justly used by the Holy Ghost. No will was elicited by the temptation; obedience was, and its true character and power shewn.

131 Next, the enemy would draw Him out of confidence in God and therein too, out of the true path of obedience, for it would have been Christ's own will and act. Cast thyself down. He has promised to keep you: try and see if He will be as good as His word. Perfect confidence had no need to try, no will to exercise. Again, the word is quoted: "Thou shalt not tempt Jehovah thy God." Exodus 17:7 gives us the true force of the expression, often used as a meaning pretty nearly the opposite to the true. We have need of perfect confidence to obey and to await the Lord's time. Anticipating the Lord's time is one proof of want of confidence and want of obedience. See the case of Saul waiting for Samuel. His confidence fails and his will works, and all is lost, though he thought to shew faith and service to God. Obedience and dependence, for which confidence in God is needed, were now fully manifested, and Satan had nothing to do but to shew himself, and then the case is simple: he is Satan and may go. For "resist the devil and he will flee from you." The Lord has destroyed his force, has bound the strong man. The first two cases are wiles. And then, abiding in the simple place of obedience according to the word, waiting for God's will, obedience to the word, and confidence in what is said that God will accomplish it, entirely frustrate every attempt of Satan. He may seek to lead us openly from God by the word, but it is owning the power of it. The word of God is absolute as to that. It is still "It is written," but it is not now simply obedience, but openly affiance to God, and all is simple; and if the heart be right, Satan, revealed as such, dismissed. Angels are the ministering servants of the obedient Son of man; so for us, as scripture shews; Heb. 1.

The way in which the Lord met the enemy is exceedingly instructive; but that to which I desired especially to draw the attention of your readers was the blessed way in which the Lord took our place, put Himself in it, a model and a pattern of ours for its simple but highest privileges, and in the combat which belongs to it, in which we are, and there, in the lowliness and perfectness of a servant's place, has shewn us to our path too. But in both He really was, and the combat now over as to the relationship and blessing, He is only in glory, but as man, and has brought us into it by redemption and grace. I know no more blessed picture of our connection with the Lord, the man of God's counsels, and that because we see Him in it alone in His own perfectness.

132 In what follows the temptation, we have the sum of all the Lord's ministry; not His discussions at Jerusalem, which have another character and are chiefly in John, in the midst of a condemned people, but amongst the poor of the flock, spoiling the goods of him whom He had overcome. The rejection of John was His rejection, the close of John's ministry the beginning of His own, and leaving Judaea He seeks the poor of the flock, where prophecy had already declared that the light should spring up. He was carrying on the testimony begun by prophets, and more immediately before by John the baptist, himself a testimony not to what was, but what was to come. His person, Jehovah in grace, in their midst, was the great testimony: but His ministry followed in the train of those who had gone before, only announcing the near approach of the kingdom and calling to repentance, because the kingdom of heaven was at hand. It is the same testimony as that of John Baptist, not owning the title of the people to have the kingdom as the people of iniquity (compare Isaiah 48:2; 57:21), but calling to repentance, separating morally those who had ears to hear, and on the ground that the kingdom of heaven was close at hand. But there is necessarily this difference between John the baptist and the Lord, that, though they may have surrounded him as a teacher, John pointed to another, while the Lord - and great grace it was - gathered round Himself: proof that a divine Person was there: such alone had title to do it. They leave all and follow Him. He is a commanding and binding power of attraction. The whole of His general ministry is summed up in verse 23. This single verse embraces characteristically His whole ministry. The two following state the effect: His fame spread through the country, so that sick were brought to Him, and He was followed by multitudes from all parts.

The history of His ministry is here complete, multitudes surrounding Him, which gave occasion to His taking His disciples apart to a mountain (though it appears the multitude followed so as to hear what He said), and teach them what were the real principles of the kingdom which was going to be set up. Such is the sermon on the Mount. The first sixteen verses give the whole positive statement of the character and position of those who belong to it in truth, or rather to whom it belongs. It is taken, remark, in its whole extent. First, the general character of those to whom it belongs, the poor in spirit, not the haughty of this world, but those who mourn in the midst of evil. It is a characteristic of grace when evil is in the place of righteousness. Peace-making characterises God. It is striking how peace is associated with God and His work. He is the God of peace. Peace on the earth is announced with Christ: He has made peace. "Peace be with you" was His twice repeated word. The fruits of righteousness are sown in peace. Pure in heart comes no doubt first, as elsewhere: first pure, then peaceable. Pure in Himself, He is at peace, and so makes it in grace. When we are pure in heart, the Spirit of peace seeks it in others.

133 In the fourth verse we see that the promises of the kingdom rise to its highest privileges. The moral character looked for in those who were to have part in the kingdom having been stated, rising to its highest privileges and activity in grace, the consequences in a world of evil, till it was set up in power, are then pointed out; persecutions for righteousness and persecutions for Christ's name. The former shewed the kingdom of heaven theirs, the latter pointed to reward in heaven itself. Thus, while verse 5 assures the meek of the earthly portion, this points to the possessions of the reward in heaven itself. Their position in the world is then stated, the salt of the earth and the light of the world - what is in contrast with and so far hinders the corruption of that in which it is, and the testimony of God's light to those in darkness in the world around.

We have thus the character fitted for the kingdom of heaven; its earthly and heavenly portion, but its carrying out in a state of things adverse to it, persecution, corruption, and darkness - only that which was of God in it. What follows is the relationship it bears to what had subsisted up to then, and the contrast with the workings of the human heart, which may put on the form of good, or render external service to God, but not have purity within, nor God for its motive in everything; which can listen to the words of God, but not build its house in obedience to them. The law is not referred to, save in the declaration that it and the prophets must all be fulfilled. It is not obedience, but fulfilling, every jot and tittle of it accomplished. What preceded was fully confirmed, but in the person of the Lord a new thing brought in. The lusts and unsubdued movements of the human heart are wholly disallowed. The Father's name is introduced, Christ declares His name, a very important element. The kingdom to be desired by the disciples was the Father's kingdom, though He, as to the present condition, be seen in heaven, while they were on earth. But love according to His ways was to be exercised, goodness without motive save in itself. They were there to serve, not to judge, but with insolent evil not to misapply their blessings. It was a strait gate and a narrow way, and few would go in at it. False prophets, for Satan would have every hindrance, would be known by their fruits.

134 The true character and condition of the children of the kingdom, the Father's name, and the contrast of this new place in holiness, grace, and obedience, with what had gone before, while sanctioning fully what God had given previously, the law and the prophets, which must all be fulfilled. Thus the true character of the ministry of Jesus the Lord, in grace and power, and in its bearing and character in Israel, is fully given from chapter 4:12 to the end of chapter 7. Now begin the details of His personal presentation in Israel, so that what should have acted on the hearts and minds of those He walked amongst is fully set before us, ending in His rejection by and through that, for the time, of Israel, and the substitution of the church and kingdom.

Let us then now follow the blessed character of the Lord thus revealed, Emmanuel in the midst of His people. A leper comes to Him on His descent from the mountain, accompanied by the multitudes. None but Jehovah cleansed the leper, but Jehovah was there. The leper, while doing homage to the Lord and owning His power to heal of which abundant proof had been given, was not quite assured of His good will and readiness to do it. "If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." But the Man of grace was there. Jesus put forth His hand and touched him. He is come to the sorrows and wretchedness of man - a man with them. One not to be contaminated, but in grace come to those who were; not driven away by the corruption and evil, but come to man when in them, touching him as man to relieve and help, yet Jehovah. Wondrous truth! "I will," who can say it, or say it with right or with effect? God. Why should He say it, when sin, and misery, and defilement were there to produce repugnance? Perfect grace - the grace man's heart was no way sure of - was there; divine goodness touching man as man, with the will to heal, but in power, man in his defilement, but to remove it from him: such was Jesus, Himself undefiled.

135 We can hardly have a more wondrous picture or presentation of His coming to the earth, Jehovah-Man, touching man in grace, power, and love, good-will to heal in grace, and present there with man. Grace is there - a word heals - the work of Jehovah, but Man touching, laying His hand on man. At the same time the Lord, while giving this proof of His divine presence, recognises the Jewish economy as still subsisting. The cleansed leper was to go to the priest and offer his offering for a testimony. In accepting it, they owned he was healed, they owned that Jehovah was there - Jehovah there in grace, but still owning Israel as to its standing. But this divine grace manifested in Israel, being divine, could not limit itself to Israel. A Gentile - owning far more fully, as not shut up in Jewish thoughts, the divine power that was in exercise, that the Lord could dispose of all things, as he sent his soldiers hither and thither - looks for mercy for his servant, but, with a faith which, as ever when it realises the divine presence, produced true lowliness of heart, counts himself unworthy that Jesus should come under his roof. A word from the Lord, ready as He was to go to him, sufficed, and the word was spoken. Such faith had not been found in Israel. It is for the Lord the occasion to declare that many from all parts, Gentiles, shall come and enjoy the promises with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and the children of the kingdom, its natural heirs, Israel, would be cast out into outer darkness. Faith and the person of the Lord take the place of natural succession, because God is revealed, and, as He must be if He is, in grace; and once revealed must have what suits Himself, and acts in a grace which is above ordinances. It was now because the person of the blessed One was there, As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. Yet He was still subject, coming in by the door, we have seen, to the law in Israel, yet in power, and grace could not be limited to it. Jehovah healing in Israel, a man amongst them, but one who must reach to the Gentiles, going forth in grace towards them.

But we have further traits of His character in this chapter. Not only is He Emmanuel in Israel, and the God of grace to Gentile need, but He is come for the sorrows and evils that sin has brought in here below. The sick mother-in-law of Peter rises up at His word and serves them, and the evil spirits depart at once from the possessed, and all the sick are healed. But it was not merely power. His heart was in it and felt it all. "Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses." His miracles were miracles of goodness. It was not merely some as a testimony, but deliverance from all the effect of sin and Satan's power. One was there who revealed God in goodness, able to remove all the effects of sin in man. He was there who did it and could give power to others to do it, not a mere confirmation of testimony, but He who was to be testified of, present in that power. Nor only that, but present as One who entered into them all. But He sought no honour from men, and when His works attracted the crowd, He left the place. It was His work, not admiration He sought.

136 And this brings out another side of His character as the Son of man. He hath not where to lay His head. Such an one as the doer of miracles, the scribes would follow; but He has not lost sight and would not have others lose sight of it, that He is the rejected One, hidden and despised in the world. "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests; the Son of man has not where to lay his head." If followed, He must be followed with nowhere in this world to go to; followed for His own sake only. And thus it involves following Him absolutely - with an absolute breach with all that is of the life of the flesh, however near or dear. "Suffer me first," will not do, though it seemed the strongest possible claim. If Christ was there and went that road, His disciples must follow Him and leave all behind, nor look back. He was come into the world because the world was far from God, and in it was gathering to Himself out of it. His disciples did follow Him, and into a storm where He seemed to have left them disregarded in danger, wholly regardless of their difficulties and danger. But foolish creatures that they were, that we are, they were in the same ship with the Lord. Was He, the centre of all God's counsels, the Lord of glory, going to sink, and all God's plans, by an accident? Alas, what are we! But the Lord was there and with the deep lesson - alas! how often to learn - of their unbelief, a word from Him calms the winds and waves. There was a great calm. And the men marvelled when they had not believed.

137 But we are not quite at the close of this presentation of Emmanuel, the Lord manifested on earth. He comes into the country of the Gadarenes. There the power of Satan meets Him, a power which was terror to subject man: a word from Him and all is over. The men possessed speak under the influence of those they were possessed by as if themselves. Man does not know how Satan governs and uses him when under his power; but, to shew the reality of it, the Lord suffers the devils to go out into the swine, and the unclean animals rush into ruin. But the quiet world will not have God's presence (Satan's it cannot help now); but if God's power and presence is revealed, it cannot bear this. They beseech Jesus to depart out of their coasts, and He went. So it has been with the world. In Luke we have more details and an application to other points. Here it is the great truth of the result of God's revelation of Himself in grace in this world. The world would not have Him, and He departed out of their coasts. Terrible as will be the end of the unclean vessels of Satan's power, the quiet world rejects the Lord. In general the chapter is in the midst of Israel, but shews the dealing in grace with the Gentiles and the judgment of the children of the kingdom; and here we have passed over to a wider scene without leaving Israel. God is ever the same, and the heart of man, but proved in Israel - the world has rejected Christ. It loves its quiet and ruin; the destruction of Satan brings with it the revelation of his power. But it is God that the people will not have. Our chapter gives us thus a full picture of the Lord's presence in the world in grace and power. He is there. In chapter 9 we have more the principles of His dealings.

We find in chapter 9 the work of the Lord, its character in grace; as His person, in chapter 8 (still more definitely in Israel), but rejected. The Lord returns to His own city (Capernaum), but away from the scene which closed the last chapter, which is complete in itself; the world rejecting Him, and He leaving it. Now He is again seen in the midst of His service in Israel. Faith brings one smitten in his body. The Lord is still here as Emmanuel, yet Man in their midst, but declares Himself there with the promised blessing of Jehovah's presence in grace. It is not here redemption, though indeed there could be no such forgiveness without it, but the application of forgiveness in grace in Israel as in Psalm 103, and for present blessing Israel must be forgiven. The Lord comes with it, and it is a direct testimony to forgiveness, or He might have simply healed as elsewhere. But when Jehovah came in grace, He forgave all their sins and healed all their infirmities. The Lord announces the presence of Jehovah to do the former. The scribes murmur within themselves, Who could forgive but Jehovah? But He who knows the thoughts was there and proves by the other part of the verse that the Lord was there in the power of grace. He heals the infirmity at once.

138 We may remark that in this, as in the last chapter, He takes the title of Son of man, His title of predilection in love to us, wider than Christ, which though He was, He did not come to take, and never takes in Israel. He is there as Emmanuel Jehovah, to save His people; but as Son of man, a title of all-importance; the One who takes the kingdom in glory from heaven; yea has all things under His feet. Christ never presents Himself as Christ. The Son of man was to be strong for God (Psalm 80:17); but now He was to suffer. But God, though in the midst of His people, must, when down here, take, in His nature and work, His place in connection with men beyond all relationship in law, the rejected One on earth. The Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins; so the crowd says, "such power to men." Forgiveness then was there; and grace to sinners. He was there in that character. He goes and eats with publicans, having called Matthew who was one. It was not the outside which governed His path. God was there and the work was to be the effect of His presence and grace, not dependent on what He found. And He knew the heart, and the vessels to choose to be under the effect of that grace as instruments of it. But the principle of the work was the principle of grace; He came not to find, but to bring what was needed, and the vessels to receive it for service were vessels chosen, divinely known, and wrought by grace into new and fitting instruments. He is there then forgiving sins, and eating with sinners, but it is Jehovah who heals; Psalm 103.

But the revelation as to the work goes farther. It could not be put into old Jewish forms and take up what was there as vessels to hold it. A publican was to be an apostle, a Pharisee at best learn that he must be wholly born again. And none of the old forms of righteousness really connected with the flesh, and man in the flesh, could receive the new wine; the doctrine of grace in power came by Jesus Christ. All this belonged to flesh, but could not hold divine power. It had seemed to test man's flesh, but what was come now was divine power in grace, and what was wholly new must have its own vessels. Besides, the Bridegroom was there: it was not the time for the children of the bridechamber to fast. The time would come for that. It is striking how the Lord always holds out His own rejection as a part of His history. The Son of man must suffer, the Bridegroom be taken away. It was Jehovah there in grace, which could not adapt itself to the old vessels, and only drew out the hatred of man, and of Israel, who preferred its vessels as giving them importance, to God Himself, and that revealed in grace.

139 The following recital contains the true history of Israel. Coming to it as just dying,* He has to deal with it as dead, and can, but those who on the way with Him have faith in Him are fully healed when all help failed. The virtue and power of life was in Him, though in result He had to vivify a really dead Israel. Such is the history of the ministry of the Son of man - Jehovah in Israel. Two accessory effects of His power are added as to its special character as to Israel, appealed to under the name of Son of David. The general character, though manifested in Israel, yet in its nature goes beyond it - Jehovah and Son of man - and this it is which is of such profound interest to trace: but He was the Son of David in Israel. And in verse 27 we enter exclusively on Israelitish ground, where the spirit of the leaders is fully manifested, and the patience of the Lord still goes on in grace. The blind in Israel receive sight by faith in the Son of David, and here He is in the house, and He opens the mouth of the dumb there too: the attention of the multitude is attracted and owns it was never so seen: but if He casts out the devil's power, the leaders of the people call His power that of the devil. The spirit of unpardonable apostasy was already manifested; but Jesus had not finished His work of goodness in the midst of Israel, and He goes around cities and villages, teaching, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing. His heart moved for Israel, multitudes as sheep without a shepherd. For if Jehovah in goodness, His heart could be moved by what He saw as a man, and till that goodness found no more room for its exercise. His time was not hindered by the wickedness of those who were enemies; the harvest was yet plenteous, the labourers few. Oh, how the heart may still feel this! Still He will accomplish His work, have His sheep. Our part is to seek from the Lord of the harvest that He will send out labourers. In this chapter then we have the grace of His ministry, its true character, the ministry of Jehovah come in grace available to faith, but which must raise the dead; and as a present thing is refused and blasphemed. His person and His work have no place here save in grace. While this can work, He still goes on caring for all that may be reached.

{*Literally 'is now at her end,' see footnote, page 100.}

140 In chapter 10 He calls His twelve disciples and sends out labourers, giving them power, a new proof of the divine person with whom they had to do. It is not merely that He works miracles, a testimony to divine clemency come into the world, but He can give power to others to work them - power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease.

I have remarked that Matthew gives an order in his recital which is the mind of the Spirit as to the bearing of the facts (that is, after the birth and before the last scene at Jerusalem). The whole history, as such, between these epochs we have seen given in one verse at the end of chapter 4. We have here first the whole number of apostles chosen, as we see in Luke, after prayer, before the sermon on the Mount. One finds at the outset of their commission how the testimony as a present service is, in this Gospel, confined to Israel as enjoying Emmanuel's presence, though it could not end there, closing at the same time by Israel's rejection of that Emmanuel. God's presence on earth could but be only for Jews, if He was the minister of the circumcision for the truth of God. The twelve are forbidden to go elsewhere. The way of the Gentiles they were not to tread, and no city of the Samaritans was to receive their visit. The lost sheep of the house of Israel were to be the objects of their care. They were to preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. All evil was to be subject to them - death itself, the power of the enemy, and the sorrows and human ills brought in by sin - leprosy and all. And as they received gratuitously - Jehovah's power to use in their hands in grace - they were to use it in the same grace; and they were to trust His power and care equally and take no provision for the way. It was Jehovah who sent. They did His service, and the labourer was worthy of his hire. Jehovah's care was there, and they, as we read afterwards in Luke, lack nothing. Further, they were to seek out the godly remnant, inquire who was worthy in the city, and abide there, and the sons of peace were to receive a blessing. Those that refused this all but last testimony, and here treated as practically the last (there was only partially the seventy on His way to Jerusalem afterwards), were judged and rejected as worse than Sodom and Gomorrha. This verse closes the direct present commission. What follows from verse 16 continues indeed their service on the same mission, that is, exclusively to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but goes on beyond the Lord's rejection and on to His coming again (v. 22).

141 The full character of their mission as thus left to serve is gone into - persecution, death - but the Spirit of their Father speaking in them, and a care over them which counted the hairs of their head. But this part of the chapter shews how deeply the Lord felt His rejection in Israel, noticed as we have seen all through. The full power needed would be given no doubt every moment, but the testimony would draw out the passions of men in a way that would break through every natural tie. Relations of nature divinely formed would not resist the hatred of the human heart against the testimony of God, and they would be hated of all men for Christ's name sake; strange feeling, which only the hatred of man's heart against God can explain! They would be brought before kings and governors, for so the Lord would bring this testimony before the great and before the Gentiles: the hatred of the Jews would do it, a plain testimony that we are here still in Israel. But the hatred would be universal: they were to endure to the end. They were to go, when persecuted in one city, to another; nor would have gone through the cities of Israel till the Son of man came. It was Christ's portion. They had called the Master of the house Beelzebub: He looked at it fully; they must face it, if they were in the place of testimony; enough for them to be as He. But they were not to fear, all would come out and they were to be out in open daylight in service; death might be there on the road, they were not to fear but Him, who could judge and deal with body and soul both. But it is remarkable how the Lord, as to Himself and them, takes the power of evil for granted, though God was with full care of His own above all; yet till judgment came as to the present manifestations of power, evil reigned (compare Rev. 2:10); for He, the power of God, was about to be rejected, and all this power of evil pressed upon His spirit in sending them out. Now indeed as Emmanuel present He guarded them, but in this second part the presence of the Spirit marks Him gone, and already treated as Beelzebub. Such warning is not found (though the fire was already kindled) in the first fifteen verses: but He knew His portion, and warned them of theirs. But they were of value to God, and not to fear. He is to be confessed before men at all cost. But nature and the flesh, which, as to power, He could have restored, were over in His rejection. What man broke through in hatred to God they must give up in devotedness to Christ.

142 The closing of the old creation is not here doctrinally taught, but the deep feelings of the Lord, as to the practical effect of the coming in of what was divine into the scene of man proved apostate by its effect, are wonderfully portrayed. It is not only the warning to the disciples (v. 21, 22), when the enmity is spoken of, but the general effect of His coming (v. 34-36). Peace on earth was not the word now, but enmity in the closest relations. Owning the Lord is intolerable to man. The closer the relationship, the greater the hostility. But Christ came a test of everything, and as His presence and the true confession of Him awakened hostility, so the heart of His servant must take Him, the new divine thing, instead of everything. The world had proved the incompatibility of the old and the new, nature as it was and grace, and the servant and minister of grace must give up all (v. 37). Christ tests the heart as well as the world. He was the rejected One. His servant must take up the cross and follow Him. Natural life was of course the track of nature, and that must be given up too in nature to find it new with God. But then they were thus associated with Christ, and he that received them received Him. The recognition of the testimony come into the world was the reception of Him of whom it spake, and the reception of Him was the reception of Him who sent Him, and whose Witness in the world He was. This was the turning-point, the owning Him, His name and word, if a cup of cold water only was given. The difference of verses 1-15, though the principle of testimony was the same, with verses 16 to the end is very marked; the power of the then final testimony with judgment on him that did not receive it, while He was there present as Emmanuel. and the moral mark in the world of a rejected Saviour. His grace continued in patience, but the fact that He was called Beelzebub had borne its witness in His soul. The present was a final testimony in Israel; the rest, the witness of a rejected Saviour; but all in Israel, save as it brought them as guilty before Gentiles.

143 This rejection and the entire change of dispensation and ground of relationship with God are fully brought out in the chapters which follow. When I say relationship, none could really be but on the new ground of grace; but I speak of God's ways. The Lord as yet continued His testimony in the midst of Israel. And thus the chapter (11) gives us a full view of the true position of the witnesses God had sent, and the real place Christ held; His place as founded on His person and personal grace contrasted with His coming after John in His service.

In the following chapter 12 we have the setting aside the old covenant or its principles, and nature's rest with it, with the full iniquity and judgment of the Jews on the other side. But in chapter 11 we have the open history and the secret history of all that was going on. Patience of goodness as yet continued, but all was now changing. The provisional service of John before Christ, and his favoured position in it, are fully recognised. The Lord delights to own His faithful servant in it: but it is over. He came after John, was before him, and it is in this character He is now coming out, though all the rest was true. John is in fact in prison, man's evil will and enmity already shewn as the unbelief of Israel towards the Lord (v. 20-24); and John himself must believe Christ on the witness He gives of Himself. He gives testimony to John instead of receiving it from him. The chief point in John's message is to shew this change, for though in prison some uncertainty doubtless had arisen in his heart - for if Messiah, Jesus brought no deliverance - yet his heart was all right. He did not doubt the testimony of Him to whom he sent. The Lord throws the answer on the testimony all had, which His word and work rendered to Himself, yet as already the rejected One in whom the reasoners of the people were offended: blessed he who was not. The Lord then proceeds to give testimony to John Baptist, but with witness of the coming change - change which His person brought in, for as a divine person He receives not testimony from men, but He gives it to His faithful servant. And John was only a forerunner of the thing itself that was to come: the least actually in it was greater than he. Of born of woman, of gifts to Adam's children, none was greater; but the kingdom set up by Emmanuel was on the other ground, founded on the second Adam. The law and the prophets dealing with men in flesh had reached up to John: since then the kingdom of heaven was preached (not come). And this was no matter of giving a law to an acquired people alive in the flesh, or recalling them to it, but set up with flesh opposed and trial brought in. The energy of faith alone could make its way into it. This, if faith could receive it, was the Elias to come - was he who had gone before Jehovah in his spirit and power, this special coming of Jehovah; but in grace, not in judgment.

144 The rejection of His testimony is now definitely entered on, and the true character of what was taking place. He shews the state of the people as to the reception of John and Himself (v. 17-19). Warnings and grace were alike rejected. But a remnant, wisdom's children, justified God's ways in both. Such was the state of things. Then the Lord comes especially to His own testimony and the mighty works by which it had been confirmed. It was not merely moral warning closing the old warning, the list of prophets owning Israel and doing no miracles, but the manifestation of power and one working miracles claiming attention by divine power, not reckoning on any present acknowledgment of Jehovah on which the word as of the prophets could be based. It was a Person present, Himself the subject, source, and power of testimony, its object, and that from which it flowed. But Israel would not repent. His works left them without excuse, His grace made the sin the greater. It would be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, Sodom and Gomorrha in their day of judgment, than for these cities; such was the testimony they had rejected.

But now we come to what was inside all this, the glory of His person known to none, and the revelation made by Him of that name of grace which, in the rejection of the Son and Servant, was brought out for the soul of him that was weary in a Christ-rejecting world. The unbelief, justly rebuked by the Lord, found with it no gall nor bitterness in the spirit of the blessed Lord, so that He should not be pure with His Father, it only threw Him from man into the fulness of the mind of God; but first in lowliness and submission in the place of the servant, ascribing all to His Father, yet as Son, perfect submission, but entire confidence of love, thus intelligence clear, no delay in solving the mystery, seeing it on the side of God. At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father. Then He is owned as supreme in everything, Lord of heaven and earth, and with the owning of this supremacy, the sense of the fitness of the dealing; human wisdom failed, it was fitting, necessary; how should it, base and earthly, understand divine ways? They were hidden, and hidden by the Lord of all from the wise and prudent. He puts man's wisdom in its place, its true moral place. But grace revealed them to the simple and unpretending, the unsuspecting confidingness of the babe. So it seemed good in the Father's sight; man, and old things with him, had passed away; Christ, the second Man, the Son in grace, replaced them all.

145 No one knows Him but the Father. The Father in grace can be known through Him, but God come as man in the form of a servant, none could know; and though He had presented works and words which left them without excuse in His service, yet His person none could know. But this submission, and relinquishment of all as sent, brings into His own spirit what belongs to Him in the place He now was in His person and service. All things were delivered to Him of the Father; the Son and faithful Servant had now all things in His hands, in this new place where He received them indeed, for He made Himself servant, but as Son; for He could not cease to be that, whatever His service; and now rejected of all, none knew, nor, in this His personal glory, could know Him; but He knew, and in this place revealed the Father. In this place of grace He stands alone, unknown of all (being in His service and testimony to them in their place rejected) and alone in sovereign grace to reveal the Father - that is, He who sends the Son in grace, and in such a world wholly tested, and its history, that is, man's and Israel's, over in His rejection - to say, "Come to me." If there were hearts weary of themselves and a world that thus rejected Him - perhaps could not well explain why, but weary of evil - though evil - let them come to Him. This solitary place of Christ, in grace revealing the Father, is very striking. Heir of all things, and the Son revealing the Father, but the deposit - thus alone the beginning of all anew from the Father - of all grace and perfect grace, rest for the weary, not help, though help He does, but rest by the revelation of this grace.

146 But there is another thing that then comes, but comes after this, though accompanying it: "Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me." The first point was He had brought the grace and rest for him who came to Him by it, but He had shewn in His rejection the lowliness and meekness which bowed to the Father's will and accepted His rejection, looking absolutely to His Father's will and good pleasure, and thus thanking, even in the midst of sorrow, not looking at the evil to be vexed, but to His Father out of it working in His wise and holy ways. Meek and lowly of heart He gives rest to the soul; as to its state, perfect rest through the knowledge of grace, with God by coming to Christ, and rest of heart through lowliness and the absence of all working of will. His yoke is easy and His burden light, the one which He had borne.

It is interesting to see how what is stated doctrinally in John 1 is here wrought out experimentally in the history of Christ, as heretofore remarked, that the first three Gospels present Christ to men, and result in His rejection. John begins with His rejection and presents the person of Him who was rejected, and man must be born again, and then the Comforter when He was gone, and an elect remnant with others such, among the Gentiles, the Jew reprobate. Compare too chapter 17.

Chapter 12 presents the setting aside the old system, first by the principles of the new, and then by the full judgment of the wickedness of the leaders of the old, and closes with the declaration that Christ's connection was not with those with whom He was naturally united according to the flesh; but with those who received His word. Judaism was over. Judah or Israel was neither the true servant nor the true vine, but Christ; and those who received His word, the branches; for John still gives in doctrine what we learn here experimentally. The question as to the old and new principles rested on the sabbath. Law and grace were connected immediately with it, for the sabbath was given as God's rest, and a seal of the covenant; but the old as the rest of the first creation. The new principle flowed from the person of the Lord, Jehovah, Son of man, withal present on earth, and the grace in which He came. But He is still viewed as the rejected Messiah; to this the Lord refers. His disciples rubbed and ate the ears of corn; the Pharisees object that it is the sabbath, and they put the question, "Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?" The rejection of God's Anointed dissolves the bond of legal enactment. All was common, there was no rest in nature possible. For a fugitive David the bread was in a manner common. And the priests in the temple itself profaned the sabbath to maintain the command of God, and circumcise sinful flesh and accomplish the due service of God. But One greater than the temple was there. The setting of mercy above sacrifice, moral intelligence of God's ways in grace, would have saved them from their mistake in condemning even the Lord Himself. The Son of man was entirely above the ordinances of the law. The One who was to come in glory, set over all the works of God's hands, was above not only in His person and place (for He was the Ancient of Days) but as the new head of all things, alone seal of the old covenant. He is, as Son of man, Lord of the sabbath too.

147 Another principle was, that power was there in grace. These hypocrites would have done more for their own interests. It is lawful to do good on the sabbath. Thus with a rejected Messiah, old things were gone, the Son of man was Lord of the sabbath, Jehovah wrought in grace, and old things really had passed away. The animus of the leaders was shewn, and Jesus withdrew Himself according to the prophetic character given to Him. He sought no rumour, nor glory for Himself; still His power would burst forth and bring the Gentiles under His sway, and they would trust in Him. For the rejected Messiah the sabbath was gone, and rest over for the world. Jehovah in grace wrought in mercy and had not rest in man's sorrow, and the Son of man, the glorious One, was above the ordinances of the sabbath, Lord of it, the head of the new creation.

But the Lord continues His work of patient grace, destroying the power of the enemy, though seeking no present glory nor lifting up His voice in the streets. But the Pharisees, unable to deny the power with which He wrought, attribute it to Satan. This brought all to a crisis. To speak against Christ in blindness could be pardoned, but to own the power and call the Holy Ghost Satan was unpardonable. It was open antagonism to divine power undenied. The Lord shews the folly of it, Satan destroying Satan's kingdom. It was the fruit of the abundance of their heart, and that wilful enmity against God in goodness, and every word spoken shewed what was there, and men would be judged by such. They are given up. The only sign they would now have was Jonas, a rejected one in the tomb. But men of Nineveh and a queen of the south would rise up in judgment with that generation, for a greater was there in testimony than Jonas or Solomon, a greater prophet, a greater and wiser king.

148 Their final judgment is pronounced. The old unclean spirit (of idolatry and rejection of Jehovah) would return with seven others worse, and Judah's state be worse than when they went to Babylon. Then they were judged for the former sin (see Isaiah 40-48), now for rejecting the Son of man (Jehovah Emmanuel in grace) see Isaiah 49-57 (though their restoration is also taught): the end would be the giving up the nation to the worst power of the enemy. Here the deliverance is not spoken of; it is the state of the generation. And then the great result, present result, as to Christ, to which I have alluded (present ties by birth in flesh as Son of David and man on the earth) gives place to those formed by the word in the hearts of the sons of men - of the sons of grace, who did His Father's will. It is the close, not of goodness even here below, but of the history of a Christ presented to Israel and man; and the beginning of the going forth of the fulness of grace in a divine person; and the Word that brought the blessing in grace with it, and sought no fruit on His vine nor reception from man in flesh. A sower went forth to sow; and all is formed on this footing. He leaves the house, for Israel had been Jehovah's habitation; but, for the present at least, it was left by Him, and He goes to the sea-side - the moving multitude of the world - and there taught.

The first parable then gives the general character of the Lord's work. He is a sower sowing the seed of the word to bear fruit. And this parable is individual, not a likeness of the kingdom of heaven. The great principle is that the Lord brings with Him what is to produce fruit, He does not seek it in the field. It stands alone thus in the seven. The other six are similitudes of the kingdom of heaven. It is not on the other hand the teaching as to the effects of grace but of sowing; as manifested in result as to the fruit produced, one only of four produced any. Satan took away at once what was sown in the first. Conscience not being reached, the profession sprang up at once in the second, and when trouble came, because of this it was given up as lightly, and withered. In the third case there seemed more hope, but the cares of this world and lusts of other things choked it, and the man is unfruitful. In one the word of the Blessed was understood, the conscience and heart, the need of the soul awakened, received it, and various degrees of fruitfulness followed. The first did not understand - nothing was awakened, it rested on the surface. The two others seemed to receive, but it came to nothing. All, I repeat, is individual here, a constant truth, but an immense change from seeking fruit in the nation. It is put thus to him who has ears to hear, urgent and individual.

149 The disciples ask why He speaks in parables, and in His answer He makes at once the solemn difference of the position of the disciples. To them who had received His word it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but to the mass of the people it was not given. They saw, and saw not; they heard and heard not, nor understood; and the judgment pronounced in Isaiah was fulfilled in them, and they were not to be treated as a nation then: all was over with them. To him that had more would be given, and he would have abundance. From him that had not would be taken even what he had. So with that people. But the eyes of the disciples were blessed, for they saw; their ears, for they heard; they saw and heard what many favoured of God had desired to see and hear, and had not. Here we see clearly the people held as rejected and blind, and the remnant separated to Christ for the knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom, but for this very reason a kingdom with a rejected king, and which took a form that was the consequence of this.

These similitudes of the kingdom of heaven begin with verse 24. There are six: three addressed to the multitude, and three, with the explanation of one of the first three, to the disciples. I will not here enlarge because these parables have been so often explained, but give some general remarks connected with the point we are at in the Gospel.

By this rejection of the king, and His going on high, and not taking the direct power of the kingdom till His return (compare Mark 4:26-29), the kingdom of the heavens had become like a man who sowed good seed in the field, etc. We have only had the fact of His rejection on earth and breach with Israel and the world, and the fact of what the kingdom was made like. The further truth of His exaltation and what flows from it are here; it is the kingdom such as it had become by His rejection, and I may add the kingdom on the earth, only that in the last three we have the thoughts of God as to it. The only allusion to what is out of this world is the gathering the wheat into His garner. But this is not explained. In the explanation the Lord returns to the earth again.

150 On the earth the crop should be spoiled. This would not hinder the wheat from being brought into the garner. Note, here only we have the Son of man sowing formally affirmed. It may be supposed in a general way in the mustard seed, but it is merely the fact of a small seed sown and a great tree produced, but here we have good distinctively sown by the Son of man, and another sowing by the enemy; and the effect of each, though in the same field, has its own distinctive character, and even manifestly so to the servants though they could not remedy it. If they meddled with the evil plants, they would pull up the wheat with them, and so did those who attempted it. But this was not in the church, it was in the field, the world; for our individual conduct we have other directions in the epistles, and in our church conduct. This was a question of service towards others of the servants personally in their place of servants, and plucking up evil ones out of the field, which was the world, and of nothing else. Satan's work in spoiling Christianity as a result here below, called Christendom, cannot be remedied by Christ's servants; it is a matter of judgment and divine power carried on by the instrument of that power, and in part providentially. We do not reap, cut down out of this world, either to lodge fruit in heaven, or to arrange evil in itself on earth. God will do that otherwise by His power. Indeed in this parable the servants do nothing at all. They have the intelligence of Christ as to what is going on, and what the crop is, and how it came about. This parable is the full and explained account of the whole scene in its sources, their effects, the general result here, and the intervention of God to close the scene and the effect and manner of that.

But the explanation belongs to the disciples, not to the multitude. For them, the whole scene on earth is unfolded, but not manifested judgment and its effects; that belongs too to the disciples, to the communications of Jesus to them in the house. The providential gathering of tares, God's judicial acts in the world (for it is part of the course of the history of the kingdom here), and then the single heavenly fact in the whole series - "gather the wheat into My garner"; both which are left unexplained - that is, the bundles of tares and the garner. It was necessary to introduce them, or the after public effects on earth would not have had their place, but they are no part of the parabolic instruction in itself; that is the kingdom on earth. The end of the present scene is the providential gathering of the wicked in corporate bodies, and the taking of the saints into heaven. The judgment exercised on earth will have other effects. How the evil came in is stated to the multitude, a needed instruction for all. While men slept, Satan was active. The irremediable consequence has often been noticed, and I do not go farther into it here, though of all importance.

151 All this belonged to the public history of the kingdom of heaven. The explanation of the next two has to be rather limited than extended. It is the fact - not directly by the sowing of the Son of man - that the planting of Christianity would result in a great political power, and would fill a limited sphere with a system of professed doctrine. I recognise fully that leaven is always used in a bad sense; there is no sowing of the word here that produces plants which grow up from it, not a leavened mass; and it is intended, I doubt not, to shew it was not this. But the object was not to shew it was bad, but the mere filling a mass with a system, not the word of life to souls. Moreover, when individuals are spoken of, we have plants in the kingdom or fishes out of the sea. Care is taken to shew it is not the word which works effectually in those that believe, but a general effect, and for this a word always used elsewhere for evil. We have then the general effect of Christ's work spoiled, as a whole, in this world by the enemy, and irremediably spoiled here; a great political power in the world, and a general profession spread through a limited sphere. I do not take the birds in verse 32 for evil spirits, but as used to shew the power to protect and shelter found in the tree, just as in Nebuchadnezzar's case in Daniel.

Having gone into the house the Lord explains the parable of the tares and wheat, and gives three more parables. Besides what I have said, there is only to remark that we have the actual judgment in this world at the end of the age. The Son of man gathers out of His kingdom, here on earth, all things that offend - no evil things allowed there - and those that do iniquity; and they are cast into a furnace of fire. Then the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father: I doubt not the heavenly part of the scene, but manifested in glory, not the joy within, but the glory without, still the Father's kingdom; and men are warned and encouraged to give heed. Then the Lord gives further parables, shewing His true intent and the divine mind in what was doing, however He might be rejected.

152 The kingdom of heaven was carrying the mind of God, however the Christ might be rejected, or its development on earth spoiled. The Lord had found a treasure hid in the field of this world. This was not Israel; Israel would none of Him. It was Israel's responsibility, and was over. Here He was seeking, He was acting, and takes the world because of what was there to be found in it, His heavenly people; and had given up all His earthly title and place to take this. It was worth while. Surely He shall have it more gloriously as Son of man, but He gave all up then and took the world, for all things are now His. But it was not only the value of His people in His sight, but He knew and judged of the moral beauty the nature and heart of God desired. He was it; and the heavenly saints alone, formed into His likeness, answered to this delight. He sought goodly pearls - understood what was beautiful, found one very precious one, and gave up all and bought it. Think what a privilege, what an unspeakable privilege to be the express and singular object of divine delight! For the treasure and the value He had for it, He bought the whole world, has a title to all, but with the treasure as His object; but here He seeks what can be the divine delight, and has one thing which can be the satisfying object of it. It is wonderful. We can understand why we are taught to be imitators of God; why the beatitudes express Christ's character; why the exhortation in Philippians 2 is the exact portrait of what Christ was. To have this object of His moral delight, Christ gave up all He was entitled to as Son of David then. The wickedness of man may reject Him, and shew what he is, and this we have learned in Matthew; but God always pursues meanwhile His own counsels.

There remains the parable of the fishes, also connected with the counsels of God, but carried out with intelligence by men who serve Him. Here only we have introduced the activity of men other than the Lord. Before, it was the Lord who sowed and the servants were only told they could do nothing. In the treasure we clearly buy no field to have Christ, nor do men naturally seek goodly pearls and so find Christ. Here, though the comparison be the net itself first, yet the fishermen have their part and their object and work when the net is full. The net has not gathered all fishes nor embraced all the sea, but gathered a net-ful out of it, and of every kind; and then when full they sit down and select the fish that are proper and put them in vessels. The service in the beginning was of a different kind. Either the Lord added such as should be saved, or the word acted individually. All that came were received into the flock, though soon false brethren found their way in. They were put into vessels, but not out of a net full of every kind. This is at the end, when as a fact there is a net full. Then comes quiet and deliberate selection; they sat down, when it was drawn to shore, when the gathering work had taken place, and took out the good ones and put them into vessels. Their business was with the good ones (they were their object), and as intelligent fishermen they selected them and put them into vessels. With the bad fishes they had nothing to do, they cast them away and put them into no vessels. It was sufficient to reject them and leave them cast away on the shore. They were not left in the net. By the selection the net-ful was done with, and the bad fish rejected, but left on the shore as they were. But their object and their occupation was about the good fish; they put them with deliberate care out of the net into vessels. The net full there was no more, a solemn thought in itself.

153 So, when the servants came to the householder to have his mind, there was nothing for them to do with the tares: only there, in the public field, as at the beginning, the Lord having sowed, the crop was spoiled and remained so. The Lord's servants had nothing to do with tares as to their service. Angels would make the separation in judgment. So here, the servants have to do with the good and gather them out of the net. Afterwards at the end of the age the angels have to do with the wicked. They gather the wicked from among the just and cast them into a furnace of fire. They leave the just here where they were: with this judgment the fishermen had nothing to do; their business was with the good fish, to put them into vessels; with the bad they had only to reject and have done with them. The disciples had thus the old things of prophecy, the earthly things of the kingdom, and the new of the kingdom which they now learnt. But He who could with divine wisdom teach them these things was in His own country only the carpenter's son. There He could do but little.

154 Chapters 14, 15, seem to me of considerable importance. In this respect, that they introduce the abiding patience and grace of Christ as Jehovah when Israel is already judged, and the kingdom announced as coming in in mystery; so that His person and personal grace, and that even towards Israel, remained unchanged, only must go out beyond in the nature of things. We have now not Israelitish dealings, but the abiding character of the divine Person as in the end of chapter 11, when, I repeat, the kingdom as set up in His absence had been fully announced, as after these chapters we have the church and the kingdom in glory fully announced; but here Himself. John had been beheaded by the Idumean and Roman king in Israel, but He that satisfieth the poor with bread in Israel is there. He felt the blow of John's death and retired, but when the need of the people came, Jehovah was there. He satisfies the poor with bread, Psalm 132; here, with a character connecting itself with the full establishment of governmental order* in Israel in man, though man would not have Him.

{*In the number twelve, the loaves, the tribes, and all connected with this, the twelve apostles as connected with the kingdom, the twelve stars on the woman's head in Revelation 12.}

Then Jesus goes up in His human character on high to pray, and the disciples are sent away alone on the stormy sea first, and He dismisses the multitude of Israel, taking the other place of intercession on high. When going to rejoin the disciples He walks on the sea; I apprehend the church's or Christian's place, the path of pure faith or of power, and faith in power with no ship, no boat, as a refuge: nothing external or human, as Israel was. The question then and particularly at the close, as a fact, is faith, personal faith in the Lord Himself. "If it be thou." Then if the eye is off Jesus, we are in no place at all for man to walk in. Peter began to sink. We can easily understand this, but it was really folly. He saw the wind boisterous, but He could no more have walked on a smooth sea than on a rough, and if the Lord was there on a rough as well as on a smooth. It was a question of faith and looking on the Lord, not on the sea, and so of himself. But Jesus will enter into the ship, again the earthly and human order, though glorified not humbled; then the wind will cease, and all in that ship will own Him Son of God, and the world that once rejected Him will own His power and presence, and gladly.

155 Such is the scheme, if I may so speak, connected with the Lord's unchangeable faithfulness and love to Israel as Jehovah, though leaving the remnant that had owned Him to themselves for a time. We have now the moral and simply divine character which cannot be hid or confine itself to Israel. First we have Jewish or formal religion judged, God's commandments hypocritically set aside, and especially by the clergy and religious doctors for their traditions. Superstitious gifts to the clergy are specially noticed and outward forms; but the whole result of this teaching was, the people in general drawing near with their lips, but their hearts far from God; where human commandments are introduced, men worship God in vain. If man's tool passed on the altar, said the law, the altar was defiled. But human nakedness was equally defiling. Man's religion was condemned, but man's heart was condemned with it, man was set aside as well as Israel. Not what went into the mouth defiled a man, but what came out. Soon is stated what did; but first the leaders of the Jews, as the leaders of fleshly religion always are and must be, were offended at the rejection of a religion which heartless flesh and hypocrisy could fulfil, and the judging of all that came out of the heart. But all was over, though grace went on with flesh and the Jewish system. The Lord dismisses them with the short judgment, they were not plants of His heavenly Father's planting. Now every plant which His heavenly Father had not planted would be rooted up. The fallen earthly system was over, only what He planted He would own. All else would be rooted up.

Such was the public judgment. It was not now Israel or their hypocritical and self-righteous leaders who could pass. Judgment was on all not planted of the Father of Christ, characterised here as heavenly. But to His disciples He goes farther, and shews not formal hypocrisy judged, but what does come from the human heart, and this was evil of every kind. Has He, full of love and goodness, nothing to say of good that would come from it? not a word. These are the things which defile a man. Thus the moral judgment was complete, first of the formal systems, which Judaism now was; the reality of heavenly planting, the only thing owned; all human religion vain, and interiorly and spiritually the human heart judged.

156 All was said as to man; but only to bring in sovereign grace. And now Jehovah's grace above all this appears, but as still owning Israel - for that is a main point in these two chapters when just going to set it aside (chaps. 16, 17) for the church, the kingdom, and the heavenly kingdom and glory. He is giving Israel up. Grace is going out in grace fully, according to divine fulness and prerogative; He is giving up His present place of Messiah there. God must be greater than that; still Israel's place is owned, though not set up in strength now. He goes where the cities noted for hardness of heart had their coasts, and a woman of the accursed race of Canaan meets Him. She takes Him on the ground of His place in Israel, "Thou Son of David." What had a Canaanite to do with that? He has no answer as such. The disciples put self first: Get rid of her (by granting her request), for she cries after us. The Lord in reply formally takes His place in Israel. "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Then she comes up and pleads with Him, and meets with what seems the hardest answer. "It is not meet to take the children's bread and to cast it to [Gentile] dogs." The woman takes this place too. She owns the promises to Israel, Israel's rights; she owns them to be the children, but the felt want (through grace) drives her right to the heart and goodness of God Himself. It was so: she had no right, she was only a dog; Israel was in the place of the children. But there were resources in God for even the dogs, they might eat of the crumbs from their masters' table. God's appointment and purposes (the true divine place of Israel) were owned, but the heart and goodness of God reached; masters they might be in God's plans, she owned it (that is, Him). But He who gave children's bread to children could supply the need of those who were not, and had but the crumbs around to look to. Christ could not deny the goodness of God, or limit it to Israel, however as sent He might own their exclusive title; but the sent one was Jehovah in Israel and could not be less than Himself, or other than God in His nature and goodness.

And now see how faith and God's character meet. I have thus spoken of the dispensational character of this history. Recognising Israel fully, the divine Person there necessarily over-passes its limits, but the moral character of the circumstances are of the deepest interest. Great faith produces great humility. There is the full recognition not only of entire unworthiness, accepting the place of a dog, but that there is no right, no claim, no promise, but then through grace, by reason of this, she goes right through to the goodness of God in Himself. That is true faith; she, as Christ, owned the dispensations of God, His right to have a people of His own, but saw Him revealed, Himself in Christ, and her need met the riches of the grace and love which were in Him. It is thus need by faith meets God, God Himself in goodness, but revealed in Christ, as part of the goodness was so to present Himself. We may learn afterwards to joy in God, when we know Him; but here we meet Him and as He is, as He puts Himself forth in Christ to be met. Hence Christ, to manifest this faith, puts forth the dispensational side in the strongest way, that faith, going on the ground of need, might pierce through all this up to God Himself, as the divine nature and goodness pierced through in Christ the place of service He had taken in Israel. And thus the simplicity of need meets the riches of God's goodness by means of grace in Christ on one side, and through grace, faith on the other. In this respect it is a beautiful scene. And this is, I think, progress.

157 First it is Son of David, and this was right and true recognition of the promise and Christ's title to it. But then there is no answer. Then she comes more simply in her need, and, doing Him homage, says, Lord, help us. This brought an answer, but that He was sent to Israel, not to Canaanites; it was not meet to give the children's meat to dogs. And then she takes her full place of a dog with no title, but there was goodness enough in God, riches and plenty enough for such. The blessed Lord could not say there was not. He was it there, and then He recognises the woman's faith. Her desire was to be met according to itself - as thou wilt. But the woman has all the great principles of Paul's gospel in the world. Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God to confirm the promises made to the fathers, and that the Gentiles should glorify God for His mercy.

In what follows in the chapter we have the great general truth of the position of Christ brought out. He returns to His place in Israel where the light was to spring up; manifests His divine power and goodness in delivering from every evil, and the multitude glorify the God of Israel, but it is not now the twelve baskets full. It is not in the character of perfect ordained human power. The baskets are seven. The perfection remains, but it is purely divine in its spiritual character, not developed in human government. It remains, but it remains divine.

158 In that which follows we have the positive preparation for that which was going to take place before we come to the history of the event itself. That which was to take the place of Christ owned on earth is given, and in giving this, the inapprehensiveness of the disciples themselves, both as to intelligence and power, not that of Israel. Testimony to them as under their present leaders, and in their present state for the then mission of Christ, was closed. But with all the incapacity of the disciples to avail themselves of the grace of Christ then present, the revelation of what was to be the foundation of that which was to take the place of it, and of the coming glory, as well as what was the path to this, was made to some or all of them. But of the whole present position of Christ they were wholly unable to seize the true character, or use the power which belonged to it. This incapacity of the disciples is somewhat prominently brought forward in these chapters (16, 17). Still the revelation of what was needed for the new state of things coming is made to them. The Pharisees come with their unbelieving request of a sign; but the answer now is short - no sign but Jonas, Christ lost to Israel in the grave - and He left them and departed: only warns the disciples against their doctrine. But the testimony to the divine power and presence of Christ had left the disciples still without any intelligence which recognised who He was, so as to own Him as testified of down here.

But here the patience of the Lord waits upon them and recalls the testimony so that they at length understand His warnings, but present understanding of His actual position there was none as then come; nothing in their state available in divine service for Him as then revealed or even available for their own souls. They were attached to His person and this was real, but no intelligence, and, as we shall see, no power by faith in what He was, but here the want of intelligence was marked. Still the Lord's works had drawn attention everywhere, and the Lord asks them the effect of this on the people. It was various: opinions were formed, and there it ended. Some said one thing and some another.

159 But unable as the disciples might be to appreciate Christ as then there, God revealed to Simon Peter in an especial way that which was to be the foundation of the new blessing. That is, we find here, as all through, the two things, Christ presented to Israel then, and His person behind all that. Only here we find besides, the disciples unable to seize the former, and God revealing to one at least the latter. We know that all confessed Him such. "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." The Christ of course they owned Him, but here was a special revelation: His divine person as Son, Son of Him in whom was the divine and eternal power of life. This was demonstrated in the resurrection, but was there in His person: that He was the Christ they were not to say He was any more. This was over in Israel, His true name there; but on the name, being the Christ, of the Son of the living God, He was going to build His church. Here was the new thing. The Son of the living God revealed, and the church built by Christ on this great truth. The first full grand revelation of the new thing, ever in the counsels of God, but set up in Israel's place during their rejection, here, but for ever in heaven. Against this the gates of hades, the power of Satan should not prevail. Based on the person of Christ, Son of the living God, Satan could not succeed against it. This power of life proved and exercised in resurrection victorious over death and hades, the power of death which had prevailed against the first Adam could not prevail against this. Such was the great truth, but many things require notice here.

Jesus recognises it as a new and special revelation; not flesh and blood, but His Father who was in heaven had revealed it to Him. It was a positively heavenly and personal revelation, not drawn, however justly, even from prophets and teachers; not merely that there was a Christ or even a Son, but a direct revelation of His Father in heaven, made to Peter, that Jesus was the Son of the living God. The prophets no doubt spoke of Him to come, and there was sufficient evidence that Jesus was He; but here was a personal revelation, the foundation of the new thing, the church.

Next, it was personal to Simon. The whole ground of the blessedness was that it was a personal revelation: "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jonas, for  - " This was the ground, though prophetically given before, why he was called Peter, but a particular special new revelation was the ground of the whole matter. A successor to a revelation to Simon Bar-jonas is nonsense, because he only has it. He only who has the revelation can have the place the revelation and it only gives. He was blessed and called Peter because he had it. On this immovable rock, the Son of the living God revealed and known, the Lord's church was to be built.

160 But, further, who is the builder? The Lord only. "I will build"; not "I am building." He was going to build it. But He only was the builder, and it is not finished yet. But His work no power of hell can prevail against. But it is only His work, what He builds. Hence, when Peter alludes to it in his epistle, he has no idea of being a builder, any more than a foundation. "Unto whom coming [the Lord], as unto a living stone … ye also as living stones are built up," 1 Peter 2:4. They come and are built up, as living stones are built up. They are built on the Lord, as living stones they come. There is no human builder, and Christ is that on which they are built. Whatever others did, I suppose Peter understood as taught of God what his Master said. But Paul, speaking of the church in the same way at the end of Ephesians 2, says the same thing: "In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord." There is no human builder, and Christ is the chief corner stone. There is a house of God where there are builders; 1 Cor. 3. Paul was a wise master-builder. Others might build wood, hay, and stubble, which Christ never does: corrupters might corrupt it. Here man was builder and his work might all be burned up.

I only notice this that by the contrast we may see the more clearly what is spoken of here: not a corporation subsisting at any one given time upon earth, of which scripture does speak, but of a working going on and wrought by Christ Himself, and as yet, of course, unfinished. Further, there are no keys to the church; neither Peter, nor anybody else, had any keys for the church. It was a building going on of which the Lord was the builder, and that does not want keys, nor are keys things to build with. The keys of the kingdom of heaven were given to him, and no doubt he used them, and to good purpose too. It is a very serious mistake to confound the kingdom of heaven and the church. They are distinguished here and never confounded anywhere. Chapter 13 has given us the kingdom of heaven. Chapter 16 tells us of the church, and then adds a distinct commission as to the kingdom; one is founded on the Father's revelation to Peter, and Christ is the builder, not Peter: the other is Christ's commission especially given as a distinct thing. "And I say also," or more clearly, and "I also say to thee"; the Greek can have no other sense. The Father's revelation had laid the foundation of the church, and Christ was going to build it. Christ names His servant, an act of authority, and entrusts him with the keys of the kingdom. If we must have a wise master-builder of the church on earth, it was Paul, if we are to believe him, not Peter. The keys of the kingdom were surely given to Peter, and he used them, and administered it for Jews and Gentiles. Every Christian owns that whatever in his apostolic ministry he did, as sent by Christ, heaven sanctioned. Remark, he bound nothing in heaven; but what he bound and loosed on earth, heaven held for good, and it was sanctioned as bound or loosed there, but the things bound or loosed were only on earth.

161 Having thus fully declared the new thing founded on His person, He forbids the disciples to say any more that He was the Christ. That was the old place, now done with as presented to Israel in promise. And He begins from this time to teach them His sufferings and death at Jerusalem, and His new place in resurrection. But this they did not understand any more than the rest. God had revealed to Peter the person of Christ as Son, but his state met in no way the necessary effect and meaning of this in the world. In their state, even with true affection, they might rejoice: their master was the Son of God; but that He should suffer and be rejected had no charm for them. Remark this for us all. There may be true divinely given faith in a truth, without the flesh being subdued, so as to receive or estimate divinely the results of this truth in the world. Still it was just man, what man savours and the world; and Peter is treated as acting under the influence of the enemy of souls and the blessed Lord's work, in resisting the cross. If he had had his way, he would have hindered Christ completing His work. But the faithful Lord treats it as Satan; to savour of the things that be of man is so, it is not of God.

The Lord then openly warns the disciples that. if they follow Him, they must take up their cross and follow Him: that was His path. He then gives two reasons: first, gaining the world and losing one's soul was little profit; and, secondly, the Son of man was coming in the glory of the Father, though now humbled, and then would reward every man according to his works. The world was a passing and vain thing; but our path in it would meet its consequence in another. God and man were really opposed in their thoughts: the rejection of Christ proved it. The path of the Lord was to suffer here and His followers to follow Him; but He would come in His Father's glory and then the fruits would be judged according to the estimate of that new world to which He was hastening; and so sure was this, that some would be given to see it before they died. All this is the new thing taking the place of the old, but in the proof of man's opposition to God, and that as still in their moral thoughts in the flesh, even the disciples were unable to enter into the mind of God. They are really as far from apprehending it in the revelation of the glory; they are not out of the old things, nor able to see even the power Christ had brought into the world. They were really in the flesh as to their minds. All in every way must be wholly new.

162 The church as built by Christ we have had in chapter 16, and the keys of the kingdom of heaven confided by Christ to Peter. We have now (chap. 17) the kingdom in glory, which in its time is also to replace Christ as He then was on earth. The Lord displays it to the three who were to be pillars: Christ formally standing alone by the authority of the Father's voice, the law and the prophets disappearing. This is the great point here. We have more in Luke of the intimacy of glorified saints with Christ, and especially more of the heavenly part, they (I suppose Moses and Elias) entering into the cloud; but here it is more the personal glory, and the kingdom - as Peter himself expresses it, the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The manifested glory of His person is more fully put here. His countenance shone as the sun and His raiment is white as the light. So it is said, "Till ye see the Son of man coming in his kingdom"; in Mark and Luke, the kingdom come, or come in power. It is a bright cloud which overshadows them. In all, Peter would have joined the lawgiver and the great prophet with the Son of man; but this foolish proposal (nor is Peter alone in it) brings in the glory of the Father, the excellent glory, the cloud of God's presence, and the Son of man is owned Son of God Himself, and Moses and Elias are gone: a testimony most distinct and express.

163 It has been said, that the risen and changed are seen here. I have nothing against it, but I do not think here it is the object of the vision, but the personal glory of Christ, and the disappearing of law and prophets (surely all fulfilled) in the glory of the kingdom where the Son of man has His place alone, because the others are fulfilled, and disappear in their service, and Christ is alone; and further, He, God's beloved Son, the kingdom and glory being revealed, is now alone to be heard. Not, of course, that we do not believe all the law and prophets have revealed, but they are what testify of Christ; and now the thing is come, the Person they spoke of; and further, not as the Messiah, and Christ of promise (as such He had been rejected, and He was speaking of this, chap. 16:20-28, and it is what introduces this vision), but as Son of man and Son of the Father, testified of immediately, personally, out of the excellent glory, as the object of delight and alone in it. It is not that He had left, or would leave, His people in the glory; He was talking with them in it, but as the One who appeared, the object testified of, He was all alone, the Father only, and we may necessarily and in His delight testifying of Him as He could and did reveal the Father.

It is a wonderful scene. But resurrection was needed to bring it out; a living Christ on earth could not be revealed in this place. It was the counterpart from it from heaven when rejected here below. The Messiah's place was God, and beside the Christ, it was the cross and the Son of man in glory, Son of God alone the object of the Father's delight. I say the Father's, for when He says Son, He reveals the Father; not Christ reveals the Father to us, but Himself in what He could not but be with the Son. It is a great thing to know, besides His person, that the Father's delight is in Christ. The Father said, "I have found my delight," such as He had been on earth, though in itself eternal. He can tell us the Father's mind perfectly. The Lord refers to this and similar testimonies in John 5. But it is not as in John 3: He speaks that He knows and testifies that He had seen heavenly things as Son of man who is in heaven, not what John Baptist declares, and "what he has seen and heard that he testifies." There Christ is revealing from heaven. Here the Father is testifying and shews His delight, that He has found His satisfying delight in that which Christ was on earth, and owns Him Son.

164 And now we find, as I have remarked, the incapacity of the disciples not merely to understand the new position Christ was taking, but even to make use of the old. Peter, with a forwardness which the Lord constantly used to bring out some truth, did not go beyond the similar glory of Moses and Elias to Christ to recognise the person of Christ. At this, though he had owned Him Son of the living God, so that he ought to have known better, we can hardly be surprised; but difficulties when they did know, and incapacity to use the power already come in with Christ, is all that marks their state. Only the Lord pursues His own grace and His own thoughts, as we shall see.

Some other important points arise out of this chapter. As regards this world, the coming of the Lord was a kind of provisional or tentative coming, though for far more important purposes. Just as He could say, till the Son of man comes, though He was there; and this double purpose is morally evident, because He came completing the trial and testing of man (compare John 15:22-24), and also to accomplish His Father's will, and give His life a ransom for many. And it was His rejection in the first form which brought about the accomplishment of the second, so that responsibility and grace in atonement met in the cross. Thus, if they could receive it, John was Elias who was to come. The scribes were right in expecting him, but John was come in the spirit and power of Elias. To him they had done what they listed. Only if Elias came, personally he must be another; when the Son of man comes, it will be the same, only risen and glorified. The Lord allowed the difficulty to be presented that the whole scene that was going on might be brought out.

We then come to the incapacity of the disciples to use by faith the power which was then present. The poor man with the demoniac son had brought him to the disciples, and they could not cast the demon out. This draws out from Jesus the expression of the uselessness of His stay with them, when even His disciples could not make use of His power. This it is which finally leads, not to the prophecy and declaration that He would suffer, and depart, and rise again, but to the immediate expression of what drove Him away. "O, faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?" The unbelief even of His disciples, hindering the efficacious testimony to His power, led to His going away. His person remained the same, and His personal grace, but His work was hindered by the faithlessness even of His own. How long was He to stay and bear with them? Thus we learn what closes a dispensation and the Lord's dealings in goodness, not the power of evil that brought Him here, but the powerlessness of those who follow Him, in making good the testimony He has given of His power and goodness. This does not cease, but in the same sentence in which He say, How long? He says, Bring thy son hither. It is what we have seen, the closing of His service here, but His person and grace only shining out the more brightly; the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; and exercised wherever there was a want that came to Him, the actual meeting-place between man and God - a want, and grace in a Saviour.

165 Two things are then brought out as regards the exercise of this power of God by faith. First faith, unclouded confidence in Christ to do it, but, secondly, that there was a real adverse power of Satan, and that, in cases where that power was in its full exercise, as here, it could not be met and overcome but by nearness to God, bringing in His power by prayer and that self-restraint in which the heart was separated from nature to God. I expect no miracles in these last days, save false ones on the part of the enemy, though many things are counted miracles which in connection with God's government faith ought always to do; but for that to which faith now applies, according to the will of God, these directions are of the last importance; faith in God's power, and that in exercise in grace towards us, and this sought in prayer and separation of heart to God. Elias, we read, was a man of like passions with us, and he prayed, which I notice, because all we read of in the Old Testament is his declaration, "As the Lord liveth," etc.; 1 Kings 17:1. In spite of all this practical unbelief in the disciples, the personal glory and grace of the Lord, and the association of the disciples with Himself in grace, is no way hidden or diminished. The close of the chapter is a remarkable witness of this in connection with what we have been seeing.

The Jews come to collect the tribute for the temple, and come to Peter with the question if the Lord paid it, tantamount to the question, if He was a good Jew. The Lord anticipates Peter, shewing divine knowledge and divine power. He asks him of whom the kings of the earth take custom, or tribute-of their own children or of strangers. Of strangers, replies Peter. Then, says the Lord, are the children free. Christ, that is, was Son of the great King of the temple, but in this character associates poor Peter with Himself. "Then are the children free: nevertheless that we offend not," etc. He then shews His divine power and in the way of Peter's natural calling disposes of the creation, of the fish of the sea, to bring him the needed money. Son of the most high God, knowing all things and disposing of creation, He nevertheless subjects Himself in grace to Jewish order; but in the title of His low place, in infinite grace He puts Peter in the same place with Himself: "that give for Me and thee." The lowliness of Him who came in by the door, the divine person, and the perfect grace, are all shewn out together.

166 The true position at this moment too is clearly seen. In chapters 18 to 20 to the end of verse 28 are presented to us in a general way the principles in which they were to walk in the new order of things, and in general what characterised this new order in contrast with nature and Judaism, while God's creation is fully owned. The Lord begins with the abnegation of self, and self-importance. We are to be as little children; one who was not such in principle could not enter into it, and he who was most so would be greatest in it. The Christian received Christ in receiving such in Christ's name. But opposition and difficulties were to be expected. Woe to the world because of them! If they put a stumbling-block in the way of these little ones who did believe, for weakness might accompany simplicity, they had better have been hopelessly drowned in the sea. As to oneself, if one found anything in oneself that led one to stumble, no self-sparing; better lose the best member one has than one's soul. The Lord always maintains in the strongest way the solemnity of God's judgment of evil. The fullest freest grace is taught us, blessed be God, but nothing to weaken the horror of evil, but the contrary.

There is comfort in what follows, if not professed doctrine, as to infants, and their salvation if going out of the world as such. The Lord's disciples were not to despise them: they were always present before Jesus' Father in heaven. I take "angel" in the common use of it in scripture, of one who represented another without his being personally there. Thus we have the Angel of the Lord; the Malak-Jehovah. They said of Peter, It is his angel. It may be an angel who does the service; but the object of the passage is not to shew who does it but what is done, and for this purpose popular language is used. But this blessing is not founded on sentimentality, or vague notions. It is founded on the parable used for sinners in general of the lost sheep, and that the Son of man was come to save what was lost; only here, with infants, it is not said to seek. But it is not the will of our Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish: of such is the kingdom of heaven. It is not, I judge, to be thought that the Lord speaks of the poor and humble in spirit; they are the greatest in the kingdom: it would be a small and insignificant thing to say of them that it was not the Father's will that they should perish.

167 We have then the case of a brother offending another, not the world; and this introduces the assembly in practice here below in the coming period. The injured person was to tell his offending brother, and win him if he could; if not, take one or two more, and if that failed, it would not merely be, You say, and I say, but the whole matter before the whole assembly with clear evidence. If he refused the judgment of the assembly, he was to be as a heathen man and as a publican. The assembly takes in this the place of the synagogue. It is remarkable here that the successors to the power given to Peter to loose and to bind, so as to have heaven's sanction upon it, are the two or three gathered as an assembly. What the assembly decided, as such, was sanctioned in heaven. The Lord adds the promise of granting what was asked by two or three so assembled, for He Himself would be there. But what should characterise the disciple was grace, and, if personal forgiveness answered the end, it was to be given constantly. Church discipline is another thing, it comes to be judicial and needed for clearing conscience. The spirit of forgiveness belonged essentially to the Christian. By being forgiven he was one, and he was not partaker of it if he had not the spirit of it.

I apprehend, in the form of the parable, that there is an allusion to the Lord's forgiveness of the nation, even after killing Him if they repented (Acts 3), and their refusal of grace, as shewn towards the Gentiles, involving them in all the consequences of their first guilt against Christ.

168 The next, chapter 19, furnishes us, I think, with some very important principles. Nature, brought up, and as God formed it, was fully recognised, but a principle and power is brought in which is wholly above it, and in its actual moral state it is fully detected and judged; while the following of Christ out of nature's power has blessing in this world and in that to come. This - setting every thing in its place on the rejection of Christ, which did reveal every thing, and brought in a new power - is full, it seems to me, of the deepest instruction. It has its occasion first as a question debated in the Jewish school, to which the Lord gives the divine answer which unfolds the whole state of things: "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" The Lord goes back behind the law to God's original institution: "He which made them at the beginning … From the beginning it was not so." Thus God's natural order, the relationship He had formed, origin of all other human relationships is restored by Christ's authority. He returns to God and God's institution of man. It is not Jehovah, it is not "my Father," but God made them - a very important principle. The law takes its place as a provisional thing by the bye. Looked at as a Jewish law, a law of ordinances, God had made allowance for the hardness of the human heart, and now returned to His own thoughts and institutions. God's order created order.

But besides this, another power is come in, which is not nature but divine, as in the power of the Spirit of God, because nature is all ruined, the power of evil is in the world, to which nature is no answer, because it is what is ruined; power therefore comes in, which is above nature, as being of God, but which consequently owns nature as He made it, and His institutions. To break them is sin, to live above them is the gift of God. "He that is able to receive it, let him receive it."

Hence also the Lord receives little children, and blesses them. This was in God's order, and of God's creation, in a certain sense unspoiled. I speak not of the root of sin, but of the manifestation of evil in the world. In themselves they were the fruit of God's natural order, as yet in a state unspoiled and natural. And so they are. The kingdom of heaven set up this order again in natural relationships and nature as God made it. We are not talking of the church here; that has its relationships spoken of in chapter 18.

But nature, however amiable and good in this sense, has the deep root of evil in it. This we see in the young man who runs up to the Lord. A beautiful character - his shewing desire of learning of Him, whom he saw to be the most perfect master of good, would inherit eternal life, had kept all those commandments which were the maintenance of the relationships we have spoken of. But the Lord cuts down the whole seed of man (for the young man came to Him as a man, a Rabbi). There was none good but one - God; still for man the commandments were His will, and, for man to enter into life he was to keep them in the system of the law. Relationship to God the Lord does not speak of, and He says life, dropping the word eternal, which the young man had used. But the way of life for man in this world was keeping the commandments. The young man, like Paul, was irreproachable in conduct. The Lord puts the test of lust and of his heart, and all was wrong. Instead of lust judged, and all counted dung for Christ, Christ is left for the riches which his lust clung to. This tale was told of man's heart; even where irreproachable, lust possessed it, and earth, not heaven, was its desire. The new and heavenly thing had come in which detected its state, and the fairest remains of creation: character and qualities were nothing; the heart was away from God. Riches - which to a Jew were a sign of divine favour, according to the government of this earth, now that God was revealed, and man's state made manifest, that it was a question of man's heart with God - were the greatest hindrance. The reason was simple: they held the desires of the natural heart.

169 But if one with the best qualities, and the desire of doing good, and such an opportunity, were not saved, who was to be? The Lord's answer does not avoid the consequence; with man it was impossible: plain, earnest, and solemn testimony. But that did not hinder God; all was possible with Him, and He could save. We have, then, the consequence of giving up all for Christ, but not beyond the kingdom. All here concerns the kingdom. Peter, ever forward, puts the question, What were they to have who had forsaken all? In the renewed world, which was coming, they would be on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, the first places in the centre of the kingdom; and every one who had left what nature loved for Christ's name would have a hundredfold in this world, and then everlasting life; for in following Christ eternal life comes in, not in doing the law.

170 But the principle on which it is done is also of all importance. Many then first should be last, and who were last first, but as a principle it is (chap. 20) always true. And the principle laid down is this - labouring through confidence in Christ, and not for so much reward; grace, and not law: reward is encouragement to endurance, not motive. Those who agreed for their penny got their penny, those who trusted the master of the vineyard got according to his heart. "What is right I will give," and they went on his word. The assurance of reward for sacrifice is there when Christ is the motive of the sacrifice; but where the reward is the motive of the service, it is poor pay, and indeed all is false. But thus there are (the converse) last first, those who, with perhaps later opportunity of service, have more trust in the Lord's heart and faithfulness, and reap the fruit of it in Him. The sovereign grace of God is the source of true blessing. But here service, not conversion, is the question. Chapter 18, on to thus far in chapter 20, closes the moral instruction of His disciples, as giving the true character and state of things, brought in by His rejection, and the principles the disciples were to act upon: chapter 18 more within, among saints; chapter 19 men's state and the kingdom, the principle of service being shewn in chapter 20. The Lord then proceeds to tell them of His rejection as immediate in Jerusalem, where He was going; that He could give them the cup, that was all. He was taking the lowly place, ministering, and giving His life a ransom for many: the high places in His kingdom were for those for whom they were prepared of His Father. Then, as in all the three Gospels, begins the history of the last scenes with the blind man near Jericho.

In chapter 20:30 the Lord accepts the title of Son of David, acting in grace where the place of the curse had been. He is therefore now no longer with the poor of the flock in Galilee, but drawing nigh to Jerusalem, in the character in which He had to say to His people there as such; a last testimony to them before His rejection by them, and their judgment. Accordingly He enters into Jerusalem as King, according to the prophecy of Zechariah, only the first part of it is omitted, the accomplishment of which will be at another time. Then He will be just, and having salvation. He was it always; but it was not in that character that He rode into Jerusalem now. His whole character here is placing the Jews under the final test of the presence of Messiah their King, bringing on their judgment as about to leave them; the rejected King passes them all in review before Him, and assigns them their place. It is the last closing act between Messiah and Jerusalem. God put the testimony in the mouths of the multitude, which shall be the cry of Israel in the last days, according to Psalm 118. He acts as holy King and Judge, and clears the temple of its defilements.

Section B