Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

. (page 59 of 77)
Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 59 of 77)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

lead off a sect, there being but one leader; and that the whole
body of believers are brethren, of whom God is the Father.

Then he turned upon the Pharisees and exposed and de-
nounced them.

1. Opposed to that "poverty of spirit" which is the subject
of the first benediction in the Sermon on the Mount, is a de-
nunciation of that lie which pervaded the long

First contrast „ , , .

with the Sermon. P ra J ers ot charity made by these sanctimonious
Pharisees, while they were privately devouring
the houses of defenceless widows. Even in their prayers they
lied. They were not able to be honest at their devotions.
And this is mentioned first, because it seems to be a key
to the whole. If when a man approaches God in prayer he
is a hypocrite, how can he be otherwise with his fellow-men ?
To obtain the property of the helpless unrighteously is bad
enough, but to commit this villany under the garb of piety is
absolutely damnable.

2. In the " Sermon," he had blessed mourners, encouraging all
who are penitent, making their heartfelt grief a source of com-
fort to them. But the Pharisees, being unchari-
table and hypocritical at once, not only did not

repent and prepare themselves for the kingdom of the heavens,
but actually kept others from entering. They sat in the seat of

Second contrast.

to dispense with the title." The only
decent course is silence. But Christian
colleges ought to be careful in the be-
Btowal of a title which so tests the
Christianity of the recipient. Jesus
teaches us that we ought not to love to
be called by any names which seem to
elevate us above our brethren. Mr.,
Master, might just as well be rejected

as Dr., Teacher, for originally it meant
the same; and it is much worse to
allow one's self to be called " Rever-
end " than to allow the title of Doctor.
It is not courtesy which Jesus condemns,
but vanity.

* See 1 Cor. iv. 15 ; 1 Tim. i. 2; Ti-
tus i. 4 ; 1 Peter v. 13.


Moses. They should have been the teachers of a true spiritual
religion. But, instead, when men showed any signs oi a spir-
itual awakening they repressed them, as they were trying to sup-
press him who taught the highest spiritual truths. Their sitting
at the door of knowledge as janitors was a lie, over which Jesus
pronounced a "woe."

8. Their position, however, demanded that they should do
something. They spent their strength on proselyting. It was

not to save souls ; it was not even to convert hea-

,1 . , T tit • i. i Third contrast.

mens into Jews, nor even bad Jews into good

Jews, but it was to add to the number of their sect. It was that
same spirit which sometimes now seizes the sects of Christendom,
making them proud of the growth of the " denomination," the
"connection," "the church," or whatever else the sect maybe
called. It is opposed to that " meekness " which is the subject of
the third benediction in "the Sermon." They were fierce and
hot, like the Gehenna, the burning valley of Hinnom, and when
they made a pervert he was doubly as bad as themselves, as per-
verts, the world through, usually are.

4. Jesus denounces their morality, which was a base casuistry,
the very opposite of that "hungering and thirsting after right-
eousness" which he had blessed in "the Ser- •

mon." They had gone blind on the simplest and
plainest questions of morality. He gives a case. The oath by
the Temple — " by this Dwelling" — was frequent. Sometimes it
was by the Temple-treasure. The Pharisees distinguished be-
tween the binding obligation of these oaths. The violation of the
former was a trivial offence; of the latter was a heinous crime.
It was the foolish casuistry of those who set more stoic by the
church than by the chapel or meeting-house, who forget the value
of that which sanctifies, and think only of that which may be
Banctified, as if building, ornaments, vestments, ceremonial:-, con-
stitute the kingdom of the heavens. So of their other case: an
oath by the gift On the altar is more binding than an oath by the
altar itself. This folly would seem to 1"' transparent to any men,
if we did not know- that Learned " doctors " of the later ages had

not taught, in the spirit which makes the rubric of a ritual more

important than an enactment of the Decalogue. Their whole
system of ethic- was rotten, and Jesus cursed it.

5. And then he pronounced a woe over their hypocrisy in what



they would have considered their devotion to religion. The iaw

of tithes, as set forth in Levit. xxvii. 30 ; Numb, xviii. 21 ; Dent.

„..,, xii. G ; and xiv. 22-28, embraced only the grain that

Fifth contrast. ' ' J &

crew in their fields and the fruits that grew in
their orchards. But the schools had applied the rule to the smallest
product of the garden. With scrupulous exactness the Pharisees
paid these. Jesus does not intimate that they defrauded the Tem-
ple treasury; but their sin lay in devoting themselves to outward
goodness of behavior and neglecting justice, merey,and fidelity. It
is common for men who never susDect themselves of beino- Phari-

i. o

sees, to fancy themselves just in character because they are scru-
pulous upon some one right point of practice. It is the spirit of
justice that is required, that justice which dwells with fidelity and
mercy, that mercy on which he had pronounced the fifth benedic-
tion in the " Sermon." Of what avail their tithes, their outward
strict legality, if their souls were "lawless," that is, if they did
not submit heartily to the law of God ? lie does not disparage
attention to the minutest regulation, nor the most punctilious ob-
servance of all regulations ; what he denounces is the being con-
tent with these while the weightier matters are neglected.

G. It was not wrong to cleanse the outside of the cup, but if
either was to be neglected let it not be the inside. If their scru-
pulousness led them to strain their wine through
a filter, so that they might not swallow an unclean
insect, how absurd would such rigid observance of the law be
when contrasted with the swallowing of so huge an unclean
beast as a camel ! Jesus uses this proverbial expression to exhibit
their enormous hypocrisy.

7. This is set forth in the horrible figure of a grave, the tomb over
which was whitened, not to beautify it but to warn all passers-by
that they were in peril of becoming legally un
clean.* But that very signal of filth made the
graveyard picturesque, while it failed to sweeten the grave that
was full of the corruption of putrefying corpses. Such were these
Purists — pure and white as lime outside, but inwardly filthy as

Sixth contrast.

Seventh contrast.

* " The graves were, every year, on
the loth Adar, whitened with a kind
of chalk (Kovta), a practice derived by
the Rabbins from Ezekiel xxxix. 15 ;
not merely for the sake of appearance
but also that these places, the touch of

which was defilement (Xumb. xix. 10),
might be more easily seen and avoided.
(See the Rabbinical passages in Light-
foot, Schottgen, and Wetstcin.) Thua
they always had a pleasant outward ap-
pearance." — Meyer.


lotting flesh. What a contrast with the pure in heart who re-
ceive the sixth benediction of the sermon on the Mount !

8. The eighth " woe " sums up the whole by denouncing their
hatred of the true spiritual life. As a benediction was pro-
nounced in the " Sermon on the Mount " on those
who were persecuted for righteousness' sake, so
in this valedictory is a woe uttered against those who are murder-
ers of the prophets and those who inherit the spirit of the perse-
cutors. The fathers of those Pharisees had killed the prophets,
and those Pharisees themselves had adorned their graves, glad
that the prophets who harassed their wicked fathers were not
alive to torment their more wicked children. Men praise those
of a former generation who did the very thing for which they
denounce those of their own. Stier (vol. iii. 232) quotes : " Ask
in Moses's times, Who are the good people ? they will be Abraham
and Isaac and Jacob ; but not Moses — he should be stoned. Ask
in Samuel's times, "Who are the good people ? they will be Moses
and Joshua ; but not Samuel. Ask in the times of Christ, and
they will be all the former prophets, with Samuel ; but not Christ
and his Apostles." {Berlenb. JJibel.)

They were in the last times. The opposition to spiritual views

of God's government of the universe, which has prevailed in the

Jewish heart and was growing intenser with each

t , . t . , -, . . ,

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 59 of 77)