THE SON OF ABRAHAM.
"The first living creature was like unto a Lion." -- REV. 4:7.
"The Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to open the book." -- REV. 5:5.
I HAVE said that each of the Gospels serves a special end, and that the view which is given by St Matthew of our Lord represents Him in connexion with a certain kingdom: that He is not here the Servant of our need, or the Son of Adam, or of God, so much as the Seed of Abraham and Heir of an elect kingdom. (Aug. de Cons. Evang. lib. i. c. 3, 6.) The peculiarities of this Gospel will prove this. These peculiarities I would now note as illustrating the special path of the Lord as Son of Abraham. I may then shew how these peculiarities give us the special teaching which we need, as to our position as members of a kingdom, and as Abraham's seed. For "as He is, so we are in this world." "He that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself so to walk even as He walked" (1 John 2:6; 4:17).
First, then, as to what is distinctive. Here the difficulty is selection, for it would far exceed my limits were I to notice every minute point in which St Matthew differs from the other Gospels. And yet the minute and less marked peculiarities, to the instructed eye, are as striking, and as full of import, as those which are greater and more obvious. To my mind, these minor points attest a Divine purpose through the book far more wonderfully than the broad distinctions which no one can overlook. And though an exercise of soul is surely needed to discern them aright, even as there must be an opened ear to hear that voice which in creation, "without speech or language," is ever speaking to us (Ps. 19:1-3); yet to the humble, light shall not be wanting to shew the wisdom of that revelation, which, without a formal declaration of its purpose, can and does reveal that purpose to such as wait on God.
I turn to the Gospel. Its opening verse is at once characteristic. This is "the book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." Here He is Heir of a kingdom, and one of a chosen seed; and so His genealogy is traced through the line of Israel's kings, as far as Abraham, and no further (Matt. 1:2-16). In St Luke it is traced to Adam (Luke 3:23-38); but here it is the Son of Abraham, not of Adam, whom God reveals to us. For an Heir had been promised, and here our Lord is shewn as the One in whom the promise of the kingdom was to be fulfilled. The "sure mercies of David" spake of a kingdom. The covenant ran thus: "I have found David my servant, with holy oil have I anointed him; also I will make him my first-born, higher than the kings of the earth: my mercy will I keep with him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him: his seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven" (Ps. 89:20-29). Here the Heir is come, and His lineage is given, not as God's, or Adam's, but as David's Son.
Then in this genealogy four women are mentioned (Matt. 1:3, 5, 6), (Chrysostom, in his Homilies on St Matthew, thus introduces this question: -- "It is worth inquiry, whereas can it be that, when tracing the genealogy through the men, he hath mentioned women also; and why, since he determined to do so, he hath yet not mentioned them all, but, passing over the more eminent, such as Sarah, and Rebekah, and as many as are like them, has brought forward them that are famed for some bad thing, as, for instance, a harlot, an adulteress, a mother by incest, and a stranger." -- Hom. i. § 14. I quote this passage for the sake of its opening words: -- "It is worth inquiring," says Chrysostom. I would to God that Christians thought so, and did "inquire.") each of whom in her life and course had been an appointed figure of the mystery of the kingdom. To see this may need some spiritual discernment; but, seen or unseen, it remains the same. It may not be out of place here, -- for few regard these things, -- to shew how full of teaching is a single distinctive word in these Gospels. To speak then of Thamar, the woman first named here. This figure scarce needs comment; for, as with Sarah and Hagar, the type is most manifest. Judah is the line of the kingdom. The sceptre was his (Gen. 49:10). But his seed, for they were born of a Canaanitish mother, (See the history, Gen. 38; and compare Gen. 38:2 with Ezek. 16:3.) were very evil. Then a younger wife, Thamar, is brought in, and given to Judah's sons; but the children of the old wife dislike her, and have no seed by her. They are cut off for their iniquity. Then Judah's wife grows old and dies. After this the seed of the kingdom passes to her who had been rejected by Judah's sons. And by her, through Judah's sin, Judah being all unconscious of it, the line of the kingdom passes from his first sons into another channel. Judah, however, rages against the seed; yea, he is ready to burn the mother. But proof is at hand that her fruit, though Judah knows it not, is Abraham's seed. The signet and staff, though Judah may rage, clearly prove the lineage, and in due time the kingdom is established in the hands of the children of the younger wife. Surely this scarcely needs interpretation. The first wife of Judah, like Hagar in another type, represents the principles of the Jewish Church, (Women in the types are principles, either good or bad, as Sarah and Hagar; men, the activities or energies connected with them. For this reason it is that in the Books of Kings, where we are shewn all the different forms of Rule to which God's elect may be subject, the mother of each king is always given, as shewing from what principles certain forms of Rule proceed.) by which Judah strove to build up the line of the elect kingdom. But the seed were evil; and though an attempt was made to improve and build up the line, by bringing in the second and younger wife -- that is, the spiritual principles of the New Dispensation -- yet the sons of the first wife would not have it. They turned from it with loathing; refusing to embrace it, for which abomination judgment overtook them. For even of old the spiritual church was offered to the Jew. In prophets and righteous men it came near to them, but they received it not. So Thamar, the younger wife, was rejected. But time goes on. Judah's wife dies. The old dispensation ends; but not before Judah's sons have been cut off by sore judgments. Then by Judah's own fall, and all unknown to him, the seed passes to the younger wife -- for "the seed is the word" -- and she becomes fruitful. A seed has sprung out of Judah, which, when sprung, Judah judges, not suspecting the true father. Yea, he is ready to destroy it; but proof is at hand that it is Abraham's seed. The signet and the staff, though Judah may rage, clearly prove the lineage of the Church's children. (I refer those with whom authority is truth, rather than truth authority, to Augustine on this history. See Contra Faust. lib. xxii. c. 84-86.) It is throughout a mystery of the kingdom, shewing how the line of heirs should change, and, as such, has a place here in the Gospel devoted to shew the Lord in connexion with the promised kingdom. And the same may be said of the other women here. I do not enter into details, further than to say that in each of them, with some distinctive peculiarities, the same story of the kingdom will be found repeated; shewing how the Gentiles (for these women are Gentiles) should obtain the kingdom and continue the line of Abraham's seed.
But to turn from mysteries to what is on the surface. Here, to omit many minor points, (Such as the fact, that this genealogy is given at Christ's birth, whereas St Luke connects his with the baptism; -- that here it is a descending series, in St Luke an ascending one; -- that this is Joseph's line, while St Luke, if I mistake not, gives Mary's; all of which, I am well assured, is significant.) the Lord is called "Emmanuel," that is to say, "God with us," -- a name, the witness of the covenant with the kingdom, and also with the elect, testifying that He who had redeemed would not forsake His people. When the kingdom seemed in danger (Isa. 7:1-14), this was the sign that it should not fail, -- "A Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and His name shall be Emmanuel;" while the same name was again but a fulfilment of the general promise to the elect, "I will dwell in you, and I will walk in you" (Exod. 29:45). Then in this Gospel alone do we read of One "born king of the Jews" (Matt. 2:2). In St Luke it is, "Good tidings to all people, for to you is born a Saviour" (Luke 2:10, 11). After which St Matthew records the immediate effects of the birth of the royal child. To Herod the king it is an alarming event, and to all Jerusalem with him; while to distant Gentiles, who come with gifts, it is matter of joy and praise (Matt. 2:3-11). The whole scene being in itself a figure of that mystery of the kingdom which was even now at hand. But even in the letter the scene is distinctive. The Lord is seen here as the Heir; and so of Bethlehem it is said here, and no other Evangelist notes it, "Out of thee shall come a Governor, who shall rule my people Israel."
In the following chapter "the kingdom of heaven" is announced. John the Baptist comes preaching "the kingdom," saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 3:1, 2). In St Mark and St Luke he preaches "the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3); in substance the same thing, but recorded under a form of expression suited to the tenor of each respective Gospel. Here, too, St Matthew, referring to Isaiah, quotes the words of the prophet, -- "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight," -- and then stops; for what remains of the quotation does not concern Abraham's seed, but rather the wide out-lying Gentile world. But for this very reason St Luke goes on with the quotation, adding, "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill be brought low;" -- the distinction between the Jew and Gentile shall be done away, in the common enjoyment of a heavenly kingdom; -- "the crooked shall be made straight, the rough places plain, and all flesh shall see the Lord's salvation." St Matthew goes on, "His fan is in His hand, and He shall thoroughly purge His floor, and burn up the chaff with fire unquenchable," -- language perfectly suited to the Lord of the kingdom, who "will gather out of His kingdom all that offends, and them that work iniquity;" but for this very reason omitted by St Mark, for that Evangelist's office is to reveal, not so much the mighty Lord, as the humble Servant.
All this is characteristic, but the general tenor of the chapter still more so. The "kingdom of heaven" is preached, for the earthly kingdom of Israel is in ruins. Israel's place is now to repent, and be buried as dead in a mystic grave. Then the true Heir, "to fulfil all righteousness," comes into the place of death, that others there with Him by the same path of humiliation may obtain a better kingdom. Then "heaven is opened," and the Spirit descends, a witness that "the kingdom of heaven" is at hand, and that the sons of Abraham shall be partakers in it. Here this "opening of heaven" is connected with the announcement of "the kingdom of heaven." But because it has other bearings, on the service of the elect, and also on the world generally, it finds its place in the other Gospels which describe the Servant and the Son of Man: St Mark speaking of its bearing on service, for there is no true service until heaven is opened to us, and the Holy Spirit comes: St Luke recording it as shewing that man only enters heaven by death and resurrection, that for man as man the way of life and peace is through the flood. Here in St Matthew, both the "preaching of the kingdom," which is peculiar, and the "opening of heaven," which is common, are equally characteristic of the special aim of this Gospel. And most instructive is it to observe how even what is common to the Gospels, becomes peculiar by its position as part of a distinct series.
Then comes the temptation. The "kingdoms of this world" are set in array before Him who has received the testimony of the "kingdom of heaven," and has seen "heaven opened." Both St Matthew and St Luke record this, for to Abraham's son, and to man as man, the kingdoms of this world and their glory are a very special trial. St Mark and St John omit it, as beside their views of Ministry and of The Word; the omission with them being as characteristic as is the insertion here. This temptation the Heir of the Kingdom overcomes, after which He comes Himself preaching the kingdom of heaven. "From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17).
The next scene, the Sermon on the Mount, is more distinctive. Here, beginning with a beatitude touching "the kingdom," ("He opened His mouth, and said, Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." -- Matt. 5:3.) the Lord with authority unfolds the principles and laws, and describes the subjects of His kingdom: not one verse of which, be it observed, is recorded in St Mark, who, though generally following St Matthew, invariably omits what is connected with power in the kingdom, as inconsistent with the view which it is his office to present to us. Here many points are characteristic: the tone of authority throughout: the repeated "I say unto you" (Matt. 5:18, 22, 26, 28, 32, 34, 39), where the letter of Moses is set aside to make way for a higher Spirit: the special teaching, too, as to the connexion of the Law of Moses with the New Law; how the latter was not to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfil them (Matt. 5:17; 7:12): the doxology in the Lord's prayer, with an allusion to "the kingdom," given here but omitted in St Luke (compare Matt. 6:13 with Luke 11:4): the repeated reference to a "kingdom," the character of which is remarkably implied in its distinctive title; in other Gospels the "kingdom of God," here only the "kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:3, 10, 19, 20, &c.); a peculiar expression which occurs near thirty times in this Gospel: so too the marks of His subjects, among which "righteousness" is specially named: -- all this, not to speak of other points, is peculiar to St Matthew, and all characteristic. As to the "kingdom," and the remarkable fact, that in St Matthew only it is "the kingdom of heaven," I will speak more fully when I come to notice the special teaching which we get in what is peculiar to this Evangelist. I would, however, beg that it may be noticed that though in three places in this Gospel, the expression, "kingdom of God," occurs (Matt. 6:33; 12:28; 21:43), in each case the reason for this variation in the language is obvious, and with a distinct purpose; the "kingdom of heaven" being ever the title distinctively chosen to mark what is peculiar to the Lord's kingdom.
And so as to the word " righteousness." To some it may seem trifling to notice that this word occurs frequently in St Matthew, scarcely ever in the other Gospels. Here it is repeated again and again. "Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15). "Blessed are they which thirst after righteousness" (Matt. 5:6): "blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness:" -- by the way, in St Luke it is distinctively "reproach for the Son of Man's sake" (compare Matt. 5:10 and Luke 6:22). So again, "Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes" (Matt. 5:20). So again, "Then shall the righteous shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matt. 13:43). So again, "The righteous shall answer, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered?" (Matt. 25:37). So again, "The righteous into life eternal" (Matt. 25:46). So, where in St Luke it is written, "That the blood of all the prophets, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, shall be required of this generation;" in St Matthew we read, "From the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zacharias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar" (compare Luke 11:51 and Matt. 23:35). So again, where in St Luke we merely read, "Seek first the kingdom of God, and all other things shall be added unto you;" in St Matthew it is said, "The kingdom of God, and His righteousness" (compare Luke 12:31 and Matt. 6:33); righteousness being a special characteristic of the Lord's kingdom. So St Paul teaches, "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and joy, and peace in the Holy Ghost" (Rom. 14:17). The Gospel of the kingdom peculiarly marks this, in its notice of "righteousness;" adding also in reference to peace, "Blessed are the peace-makers;" a beatitude only to be found in this Gospel.
Having thus published the laws of His kingdom, the Lord proceeds by acts of grace to bring "the kingdom" nigh to His elect Israel (in chapters 8-12). And what a kingdom! The strong man's house is spoiled. Death and disease flee away before the King's bidding. Lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised, the storms obey, the devils fear; and yet, though mercy rejoices against judgment, His people Israel will not receive their King. Much of this is common to the other Gospels, for Christ's rejection by the Jew has a bearing both on His course as Servant, and also as shewing out the deceitfulness of the heart of man as man. For which reason many of these scenes are given, with characteristic omissions or additions, both in St Mark and in St Luke's Gospels. But here the rejection of the Heir of the kingdom, and the nature of His kingdom, are set forth with a fulness of detail unequalled in any other Gospel. Of the King Himself St Matthew tells us, -- and the words are only here, -- "Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses" (Matt. 8:17). Of the spirit of His kingdom, we have the reiterated witness, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice" (Matt. 9:13; 12:7); words, which as they are peculiar to this Gospel, very distinctly mark the character of that rule which He brought to sinful men. Then as to His subjects. Here only do we read, "Many shall come from the east and from the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 8:11, 12). Israel will not have Him. Had He come with law, exercising lordship, He should have been called a benefactor (Luke 22:25). But because He comes with grace, to meet the vile, to save the lost, therefore His own receive Him not. Still He preaches "the gospel of the kingdom," (Matt. 9:35. Compare the same expression in Matt. 24:14 with the parallel passage in Mark 13:10.) -- an expression peculiar to St Matthew, -- for He is moved with compassion, because they fainted, and were as sheep having no shepherd. All, however, whether the Baptist's, His own, or the Apostles' ministry, is rejected. "He is despised, and they esteem Him not."
Then comes a passage, peculiar to this Gospel, unveiling the heart of the King; in which, while He invites others to become His subjects, He shews by His own example what is that kingdom to which He now calls them. He has come to His own, and they reject Him. Is, then, His kingdom shaken? Nay, but the sin around only the more reveals that realm of peace, which, like "the brave everlasting firmament," through storms and tempests stood unmoved in Him. First, His witness John doubts Him; chains and a prison chill his faith; even as to this hour in days of darkness we question the very truths, of which in more sunny days we have been the bold witnesses. Then Israel is like to children, whom no care will please; who will not dance when piped to, or weep when mourned to. Then the cities which had witnessed His "mighty works" remain unchanged. Sodom would have repented; but they repent not. But none of these things move Him. The Lord of that "kingdom which is joy and peace," shews that, let what will come from without, there is a kingdom within Him which can overcome all things. So we read here, -- "At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth" (Matt. 11:25). "At that time," when His servant doubted, and Israel mocked, and men despised Him; -- and who can tell what hosts of hell by all these circumstances now pressed against that loving spirit? -- "At that time Jesus answered, I thank thee, Lord. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." And then at once turning as if to others, He utters the well-known words, "Come unto me, all ye that labour, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you -- be now my subjects -- and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest" (Matt. 11:28-30). Here is indeed a kingdom which neither earth nor hell can move, -- "the peace of God which passeth understanding:" which can bear all, believe all, hope all, endure all: which out of apparent defeat can reap yet fresh glories. Here in the conscious enjoyment of such a kingdom, as now Lord of all; for it is here, in the midst of this rejection, that He says, "All things are delivered to me of the Father" (Matt. 11:27); while yet despised and doubted, He yet calls us to share His peace, in the kingdom which is not in creature-blessings, but in the Holy Ghost. This is indeed a kingdom, to live in the will of God; to understand that will; to be content with it; -- to lose all self-will even in good; to be glad when self-strength fails; when all self-glorying is utterly put from us; and yet to joy in God, in that His will is done, with an unfeigned "Even so, Father, for thus it pleaseth Thee." Compared with this, what deserves the name of power or glory? Here is a kingdom worthy of the high title. Here is victory over all: having nothing, yet possessing all things: a broken heart, and yet unmeasured peace. As revealing the kingdom this scene is perfect. As such St Matthew gives it; while for the same reason it is omitted in the corresponding place in all the other Gospels.
The next chapter, (the 12th,) though parts of it are common both to St Mark and St Luke, becomes generally distinctive by the additions peculiar to this Gospel. The Lord goes through the corn-fields, so choosing the day as to call in question Israel's right to the reality, of which the sabbath had been the appointed token. (It had been the sign of the covenant with Israel (Ezek. 20:12-20), touching a rest in the first creation.) The omissions or additions of each Evangelist upon this question very clearly mark the distinct and special ends proposed in each narrative (Matt. 12:1-7; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5). Here we read, "At that time Jesus went on the sabbath through the corn. And the Pharisees said, Behold, thy disciples do that which it is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But He said unto them, Have ye never read what David did?" In St John, under a similar charge, His ground of justification is not "what David did." As Son of the Father the answer is, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17). In St Matthew, as Son of David, "what David did" is a fit reply, and characteristic of His position, as coming to His kingdom, and like David at first rejected in it. He thus proceeds, -- "Or have ye not read in the law how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath and are blameless?" I look to the same scene in St Luke, but there is not one word there of "priests" or "law;" for there He is Son of Man, on far wider ground, meeting men without law. Then again, here in St Matthew He adds, "But I say unto you that in this place is One greater than the temple;" words exactly suited by their authority to mark that relation as Lord of the kingdom, which our Lord occupies in this Gospel. I turn to the same scene in St Mark, and that Evangelist, who up to this point implicitly follows St Matthew, entirely omits these words, which as being a declaration of kingly power would be out of character in the meek Servant. Finally, here in St Matthew the Lord repeats, "But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless;" words to be found in no other Gospel, but very characteristic here, as marking the true nature of the Lord's kingdom.
St Matthew then proceeds with the tale of rejection, till the Lord withdraws himself (Matt. 12:15), and so acts that the prophecy, (St Matthew alone quotes it,) "He shall shew judgment to the Gentiles," begins to be accomplished (Matt. 12:17-21). This Scripture, peculiar to St Matthew, is again linked with the kingdom. Here we have fresh discoveries of its nature, and glories, and of its rightful Lord. Here only do we read of Him, that "He shall not strive nor cry in the streets; a bruised reed shall He not break, nor quench the smoking flax." For His kingdom is not of this world, but of God, and God is love. It asks not therefore for outward strivings, but rather for silence, and prayer, and quiet contemplation. The pomp of war, and this world's pride, these and like things men admire. Few believe that humbleness and grace are proofs of true greatness. Men do not see that to come down, one must be high; or that the depth of our descent is the exact measure of our true elevation. But this is seen in the kingdom. There the last is first, and he that has been lowest shall one day be seen highest. St Matthew, and it is very characteristic, carefully notes this, in these little touches peculiar to him, as affording a lesson respecting the kingdom, much needed even by its true children.
What follows is as distinctive. These ways strike the crowd. "All the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the Son of David?" St Luke, the only other Evangelist who records this scene, omits this witness as to "David's Son," telling us simply that "the people wondered" (compare Matt. 12:22, 23 and Luke 11:14). But when the Pharisees heard it they said, "This fellow doth not cast out devils, but through Beelzebub, the prince of the devils." Then the Lord answers again, with two special words, both peculiar to this Gospel, and both distinctive; first declaring, as Lord of the kingdom, "I say unto you, that every idle word which men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment;" and then, that as with the unclean spirit which goes out but returns with seven others worse than the first, "So," -- for He speaks as Judge here, -- "shall it be to this wicked generation." After which, renouncing those earthly ties which had bound Him to Israel in the flesh, He acknowledges no other relationship but that of subjection and obedience to the Father's will: -- "Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, my sister, and my mother" (Matt. 12:36, 45, 50).
Then comes the unfolding of the mystery of that "kingdom," which should be brought in upon the rejection of the Lord, during His absence for a season growing out of that rejection. This mystery is here opened (Matt. 13). The Lord came seeking fruit. He found no fruit in His fig-tree. Then He becomes a Sower. And the history of the period during which He should sit on the Father's throne, until His own throne as Son of Man should be set up, is here given from its first commencement, when the seed was sown in the field, even until the harvest. This, as it is peculiar to St Matthew, is quite characteristic. It is true that of these parables, three are given in the other Gospels; St Mark giving us the Sower and the Mustard-seed, because, though on one side linked with the mystery of the kingdom, they have as manifest a bearing on the path of true service: St Luke for a like reason giving the same two, and the Leaven also, in an order different from St Matthew, because the Gentile world is also included in these three parables. St Luke's order is striking. With him the parable of the Sower stands alone, as an introduction to the three chapters in which he successively describes the preaching, first of the Lord, then of the Twelve, then of the Seventy (Luke 8, 9, and 10): while he puts the Mustard-seed and the Leaven, in contrast with the Barren Fig-tree (Luke 13:6-9, 18-19, 20-21), where he is shewing how the Lord, finding no fruit on his fig-tree Israel, on its being cut down should have another tree growing from a little seed, and a leaven of doctrine leavening the whole world. Here in St Matthew the order is different, for the thing to be unfolded is "the mystery of the kingdom." And distinguishing His disciples from the mass of Israel, as those who through grace were able to understand this mystery, our Lord here unfolds it to them in all its length and breadth. The first parable shews how Christ should now go forth as Sower, and, spite of Israel's rejection of Him, should yet possess a kingdom. For here in St Matthew the seed sown is "the word of the kingdom;" (Matt. 13:19. Compare Luke 8:11. In Mark 4:14 also, the seed is simply "the word.") in St Luke it is simply "the word of God." Then come the similitudes of the kingdom. Three spoken to the crowd, describing the outward result of the kingdom, of which all men might take knowledge. The three latter spoken only to the disciples, and descriptive of its true character and value, as seen by those possessing the mind of Christ.
The series as a whole is a complete unfolding of the secret of the kingdom. First the man sows good seed in his field, but his work is soon injured. While men sleep the tares are sown, which, though some would touch them, are spared awhile lest in gathering the tares the wheat be rooted up. Here we have the present state of the world, a mixture of good and bad, which by God's permission is to last until the harvest. Then comes the external form of the kingdom, a vast Gentile thing like Nebuchadnezzar's tree (Dan. 4:10-14), in which birds of every wing, even those very birds which have plucked away the good seed, can find shelter. Then comes the diffusion of a doctrine through the mass, which the Lord describes as leaven, this also being something visible, inasmuch as the leaven as it spreads would make the meal to rise and work. (The word "leaven" I believe is never used in Scripture for what is pure. It is to be remarked that its insertion into the meal is "the woman's work, and not "the man's." Leaven is sour dough. Whether what is generally spread through Christendom is sweet or sour, a good thing corrupted or a good thing unspoilt, is left for the spiritual intelligence of such as are able to "discern the things that differ.") All this is outward and visible, and is stated as matter of fact, without bringing in God's estimate of it all, save on this one point, that the tares having been sown are not to be rooted out until the harvest. Then follow the parables spoken "in the house;" first, of the treasure hid in the field, for the sake of which the field is bought, though as yet the treasure is not taken out of it; describing, (for these last parables give God's view,) the value of the Church to Christ, who was content to take the field of this world, for the sake of the treasure hid therein. Then we have the beauty of the treasure, a peerless pearl: Christ's estimate of the loveliness of grace in His redeemed children. Then comes the netful dragged to shore, with the separating process of judgment, the good being gathered and the evil cast away; a view of the judgment, not so much on earth as in heaven; not, as in the Tares, connected with the place where they have grown, but with the place to which those who have been caught in the net must be brought in due season. This subject of itself would fill a volume. Here I only note it as an illustration of the special view of the Lord presented to us in this Gospel.
Not less distinctive are the quotations which abound in this Gospel. Again and again we meet the words, "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet." The reason is plain. The prophets had spoken of "the kingdom," and the character of its King: therefore are they so carefully quoted in the Gospel of the kingdom. I may note, (for this allusion to the prophets is distinctive,) some of the Scriptures here quoted, as marking the coming and character of the promised kingdom. As to the birth of the Heir of the kingdom, it was to be above nature; "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, A virgin shall conceive and bear a Son" (Matt. 1:22, 23). The Heir of the kingdom must be begotten of the Holy Ghost. Thus only can we have Emmanuel, that is to say, God with us. As to His acts, "The people in darkness should see great light" (Matt. 4:14-16). "He should take our infirmities, and bear our sicknesses" (Matt. 8:17). "He should not strive, nor cry, nor break the bruised reed; but He should send forth judgment unto victory" (Matt. 12:17, 18). All this was done "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets." And yet when He came to His people, they knew Him not. How this bears on the path of the heirs may perhaps be seen hereafter. Here I note it as another example of the peculiar tone which runs through this Gospel.
Time would fail me were I to attempt to shew how the remainder of this Gospel is to the full as characteristic as that portion over which I have glanced thus hastily. To speak only of its many Parables. With, I think, three exceptions, each of which is significant, they are all similitudes of "the kingdom of heaven." We have seen how "the kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven," "the kingdom of heaven is like a net," "the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman seeking goodly pearls." To the end it is still "the kingdom." And even in the exceptions I have referred to -- namely the Sower, the Two Sons, and the Vineyard, which, as they describe a state of things previous to the setting up of "the kingdom of heaven," could not present similitudes of it (These three parables, the Sower (Matt. 13:3-9), the Two Sons (Matt. 21:28-32), and the Vineyard, (Matt. 21:33-44), all represent things prior to the setting up of the kingdom of heaven. The Lord came as "Sower," before He ascended up on high, and thus before the establishment of the heavenly kingdom. The "Two Sons," too, are a figure of man as such, neglecting or giving heed to natural conscience or God's word, all which preceded the coming of the heavenly kingdom. In like manner the letting out of "the Vineyard" to the Jews preceded the rising of the King to heaven. For this reason, none of these three could be similitudes of "the kingdom of heaven.") -- there is in each an allusion to "the kingdom." The seed of the Sower was "the word of the kingdom." The son, "who said, I will not, but repented and went," is the publican and harlot, who will "go into the kingdom," before those "who said, I go, Sir, but went not." And in the case of the Vineyard, after the husbandmen have killed the Heir, it is added, "Therefore shall the kingdom of God be taken from you, and given to another nation." By the way, observe here it is "the kingdom of God" which is taken from the Jews, not "the kingdom of heaven." They had "the kingdom of God," for they owned God as their king, but they never had "the kingdom of heaven," that form of the kingdom of God which was subsequent to Christ's resurrection into the heavens, and which is the peculiar distinction of this dispensation. (I may add here, as marking the exactness with which these terms are used, that, in Matt. 12:28, our Lord who had before been preaching "the kingdom of heaven is at hand," changes His phrase, saying, "If I by the Spirit of God cast out devils, then the kingdom of God is come unto you" (ephthasen eph humas). The "kingdom of God" had come, because God's King was there. But for the same reason, the "kingdom of heaven" was not come, but coming, when the King should be cast out from earth, and received into heaven.) Thus in St Matthew the burden of the Parables is throughout "the kingdom." The later ones especially reveal this in their whole character. In no other Gospel do we find such words as these, "Then shall the King say to them on His right hand;" and again, "The King shall answer and say, Depart, ye cursed."
How different all this is in St Luke, must have been observed by every reader. There, in the Gospel of the Son of Man, the peculiar form for commencing a parable is, "A certain man" did this or that; and this invariably. "A certain man had a fig-tree:" "a certain man had two sons:" "there was a certain rich man who fared sumptuously." We cannot compare a parable which is common to these two Gospels, without being struck with this. For instance, in St Matthew we read, "The kingdom of heaven is like to a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call them that were bidden, but they would not come." In St Luke it is, "A certain man made a great supper, and bade many; but they would not come" (compare Matt. 22:2 and Luke 14:16). (I see that in the Greek in St Matthew it is anthropo basilei, "a man who was a king;" shewing the link, and yet contrast, with St Luke's Gospel.) So in the parable of the Vineyard, which I have already shewn is not one of the similitudes of the "kingdom of heaven," in St Matthew we read, "There was a certain householder, (in the original, oikodespotes, a title of authority,) which planted a vineyard." In St Luke, in the same parable, we have simply, "A certain man planted a vineyard" (compare Matt. 21:33 and Luke 20:9). In St Mark too, for he shews the Servant, the title of honour is dropped: it is only "A certain man" (Mark 12:1).
One other point I must not omit. Only in this Gospel is the "Church" named. Here in the Gospel of the Kingdom it has a very distinct mention. Rejected by Israel, "He left them and departed" (Matt. 16:4). Then from His disciples He receives a confession, in reply to which He names His own "Church;" adding a promise of "the keys of the kingdom of heaven," with power on earth "to loose and bind." Abraham's sons take Him for "John the Baptist, or Jeremias, or one of the prophets" (Matt. 16:14). They cannot echo the prophet's voice, "To us a Son is given." But a poor remnant, to whom "not flesh and blood, but the Father hath revealed it," can say, "Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16). This is that knowledge which marks the Church; for of her it is said, that she is "to come in the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man" (Eph. 4:13). At once the Lord replies, -- and the words are only here, -- "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it: and I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven:" words full of import touching "the kingdom," and therefore recorded here; and for the same reason omitted in all the other Gospels. Then comes the Transfiguration, here, and here only, introduced with words, plainly directing us to recognise that display as a glimpse or sample of the coming kingdom (Matt. 16:28). After this the disciples ask, "Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" elsewhere it is simply, "They disputed who should be the greatest" (compare Matt. 18:1 with Mark 9:34 and Luke 9:46). The Lord replies, "Except ye be converted" -- (by the way, this also is peculiar to St Matthew, and like the word, "righteousness," is strikingly characteristic of the coming kingdom) -- "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven; and whosoever will humble himself as a little child, the same shall be greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Then He adds here, and here only, another word touching "the Church." "If thy brother trespass against thee, tell him his fault alone. If he will not hear thee, tell it to the Church. And if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as a heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto thee, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:15-20). All this, together with the parable immediately added in reply to the question, "How oft shall my brother trespass, and I forgive him?" is only to be found in this Gospel. The parable (Matt. 18:23-35) is a prophetic sketch of the Church's judgment for want of mercy. But on this I will not enter here. Suffice it to say that the whole passage, as it is peculiar, bears with no uncertain aim on the Lord's relation to the Church and the kingdom.
These examples -- and they are but a part of the evidence which might be adduced -- may suffice to shew the character of this Gospel, and give the clue to those who wish to search further. I now turn for a moment to the special teaching these peculiarities contain; for not the Jew only, but the Church also, needs the lesson here.
First, then, as to the character of the kingdom, much is taught in what is distinctive here. Take the peculiarity that in St Matthew only the Lord's kingdom is always entitled the "kingdom of heaven." Has nothing been lost by neglecting to observe that the Gospel, which reveals the kingdom, reveals it by a special name, remarkably characteristic of the position of all its true subjects? How many a mistake would have been prevented had it been seen that the true kingdom was not of earth, nor of times and places, but indeed "of heaven." Where could the claims of that system rest which makes Rome and a man there its centre, if it were understood that as Rome is not heaven, so Roman Catholic has nothing akin to the "kingdom of heaven" here spoken of? Had it simply been said, "kingdom of God," the answer might of course be made, that as Israel, an earthly people with an earthly centre, were once the kingdom of God, so an earthly people with an earthly centre might be that kingdom still. But the Gospel which reveals the kingdom specially marks it as the "kingdom of heaven," in which neither Rome, nor time, nor earth, have any place. But the Church has erred even as the Jew, looking for a repetition of the old thing, rather than for that new creation of righteousness and joy and peace, which is indeed the true kingdom. Nor does the fact that the prophetic parables (such as the Tares, the Leaven, and the Mustard-seed,) foretell the outward results of the kingdom, as a mixed and worldly thing, prove it to be right or normal, any more than the predictions of Israel's fall prove that their rejection of Christ, which also was foretold, was agreeable to the mind of God. Out of both, God can perform His purpose; but this does not prove that the fallen and spoilt thing is that which God looks for.
Take another peculiarity. In this Gospel our Lord, as Heir of the Kingdom, is presented to us as "Son of David, Son of Abraham." This title bespeaks in mystery the character of the kingdom. In more than one Epistle, St Paul labours to shew how much is involved in this lineage. What then is taught in the words, "Son of David, Son of Abraham;" for an heir of the kingdom must not only be Abraham's son, but Abraham's son in one especial line. St Paul thus answers: -- "Neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children of the kingdom, but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called; that is," (this is an inspired comment,) "They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (Rom. 9:7, 8). "For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bond-maid, the other by a free-woman" (Gal. 4:22-31). A child of the bond-maid, though Abraham's son, was not an heir of the kingdom. David and the kings all sprung from the long-barren free-woman. Which things are a mystery. The sons of the bond-maid, though Abraham's seed, were born according to nature, by human will and energy. For Hagar is the law, and her sons -- children of bondage -- are a figure of those who, though born in the house of the elect, and in one sense his seed, being born only by nature, are not the true seed. The true heirs are of another generation, the sons of the free-woman, born when Abraham and Sarah are as good as dead; a figure of that spiritual seed which is born contrary to nature, which, like Isaac, is offered as a sacrifice, and yet lives. This is the line of the kingdom: this is the chosen seed. "He saith not, Seeds, as of many, but, To thy seed, which is Christ" (Gal. 3:16), and His body. These are heirs of the kingdom, according to the description in this Gospel, sons of Abraham, according to David's line. Let such as count themselves to be heirs, see that they have this lineage; that they are sons, not by nature or fleshly energy, but by Divine power.
Take another peculiarity of this Gospel: the connexion of the laws of the kingdom with the old law. The teaching on this point, as it is peculiar here, throws much light on the whole question of that on which the kingdom rests. The Lord distinctly says here, "I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil, the law" (Matt. 5:17). How then can we say that "we are not under the law, but under grace?" (Rom. 6:14). And if, as these words seem to imply, grace contrasts with law, how is it that with precepts of grace the law is yet fulfilled? Our Lord's words peculiar to this Gospel, "Thus, it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness," taken in connexion with the occasion when they were uttered, may answer this question. It was at His baptism, when He presented Himself to receive that sign of death and the grave ("We are buried by baptism." -- Rom. 6:4.) that He spake thus of "fulfilling all righteousness." It is when His followers take the same place, content to die that they may live, that righteousness will be seen in them also. I would it were more clearly seen that there can be no righteousness or fulfilling of the law without death; nay more, that, obedient or disobedient, law can only kill man. If I am perfectly obedient, the law will kill me, for it says, "Love God and man perfectly;" and such a love would soon consume me. If I am disobedient, it will kill me, for it is written, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them:" clearly proving that the law was not given to save us, but, as St Paul teaches, to be a standard to shew us that we are ruined sinners (Rom. 3:20; 7:7). A law which could have given life could not be given to fallen man. Hence the Scripture by the law only concludes all men under sin (Gal. 3:21, 22). Grace comes in, thanks be to God; but it meets man in death. He must confess himself dead, (therefore are we baptized,) and die, too, if the law is ever to be fulfilled in him. And no sooner do we take the place of dead ones, and own our lot as sons of men, than heaven and the kingdom of heaven is at once opened to us. Then this grace produces grace. Christ died for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:16). And then, if dying be the fulfilling of the law, we need not strive for life here, we need not take "eye for eye," or "hate our enemies." We may be content to suffer and die, and act in grace to all, knowing that, if we lose all, the kingdom of heaven is yet ours. Will the law be broken thus, because we are "not under," but above it? Nay, thus only will it be fulfilled. I venture to say that till men are content to die, -- till they see that "fulfilling all righteousness" is connected with our taking the place of dead and buried sinners, -- the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount will never be kept, however much they may be lauded by us. Take that law, hoping to live by it, and it must be pared down. Take it to die by, as part of the story of the cross, and it is all clear.
Another peculiarity of this Gospel is the special light which it throws upon the position of the true heirs of the kingdom, as respects their carnal brethren. Are the true heirs, like Pharisees, to separate themselves from those in error, and to thank God that they are not as other men; or shall they go out with a few, like Theudas (Acts 5:36, 37), into the wilderness, in the hope of again finding the original circumstances of the dispensation? The true Heir, with a heart of love, takes neither course. He will not stand alone, but will take His place among the lost ones. And He took it, though the religious people judged Him for it; not like Theudas and Judas looking for Jordan to dry up, but Himself going down into its waters, and being buried under them; not fighting to re-establish the kingdom upon earth, but trusting God to lift Him out of it into a higher, even a heavenly one. And so "heaven opened" to Him, and God said, "I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17). Men might be displeased, but God was "well pleased." Then, having been a brief season in the wilderness, -- just as opened heavens yet drive men thither for a season, -- He returns in the power of the world to come, to tell others how near that same heaven is to them also.
And to this day the same thing takes place in every heir of the kingdom who has reached this stage. For all have not reached it. For we may be, like Christ, heirs of the kingdom, and yet in Egypt. We may be heirs, and yet, like Him, be arguing with doctors at Jerusalem. He did so when He was twelve years old; and when He is twelve years old in us, we may do so. But if we grow with Him till with Him we see Israel's state, and then so yield to Him, that He lives and walks in us, that "to us to live is Christ," then, inasmuch as He cannot change, but is "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever," what He did of old, He will do again in us, -- go down again amongst publicans, -- then have heaven opened, -- and then, having overcome the devil, come forth to tell to others how near that kingdom is; and that the way to enter it, is, not by this or that outward separation, much less by boastings as to Israel's works or temple, but by repentance, by owning our state, and by taking the place which befits a fallen people; expecting there to find our God and His grace amply sufficient for us.
Many other points might be adduced, growing out of what is special here: but with one other particular I must conclude. We noticed in this Gospel a special allusion to the Prophets. The expression, "Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by the prophet," is peculiar to this Gospel. And yet the children of the kingdom knew not the Heir when He appeared. Though fulfilling their own Scriptures before them, He was a wonder to them. People in darkness saw light. He neither strove nor cried. The broken reed was not bruised, nor the smoking flax quenched. But so low was Israel fallen, that they knew not the day of their visitation. Like looked for like, and so they esteemed Him not. Had He come, like Barabbas, to strive for the restoration of the earthly kingdom, or had He sought to overthrow the existing rule of Herod, He should not have stood alone. But because His kingdom is heavenly, Israel care not for it. He may go whither He will: they want Him not. Such has been, such must be, the experience of the true heirs. They may in their lives fulfil the prophets, manifesting light, and grace, and righteousness. But if they will not fight for or against the outward things of their day by other outward things, the children of the kingdom, born after the flesh, either cannot discern, or will not have them. Let the heirs be prepared for their lot, to be rejected even by Abraham's sons; for of Abraham's sons it is written, "They which are born after the flesh persecute those which are born after the Spirit." But the mocked ones have their reward. If the kingdom of earth is closed, the "kingdom of heaven" is open to them.
In that day when the King now hidden shall be revealed to men, may we, now content to be hidden with Him, be partakers of His glory. They that suffer in the mystery of the kingdom shall rejoice in its revelation. Till that revelation, may we be in "the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ." Amen.
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