[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

festation. The seed germinates. One form of growth strikes downwards, another rises into the light of day. There is first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

Jesus had left the neighbourhood of the Sea of Galilee, and had gone to the borders of Tyre and Sidon—Phoenician territory. Here the circumstance noticed in chap. vii. 24-30 occurred. The reference to the dogs (ver. 28) gives us a glimpse into the household life of these Gentiles. The dogs among them were associated with the people as domesticated animals. Our Lord took advantage of this in order to bring out the faith of the Syro-Phænician woman. It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.” “Dogs," literally "little dogs.” The word kynarion, "little dog," is used as a familiar diminutive, just as thygăter, “daughter,” becomes thygatrion, "dear little daughter.” Such incidents shed much light on the perfect humanity of Christ.

"And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be. cast into hell-fire; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another” (ix. 47–50). His hearers had been warned against offending any who believe in him. He now asks them to regard themselves as individuals in danger of allowing sinful tendencies to mar their usefulness, and blight their hopes as children of God. Should these tendencies seem dear to them, as hand, or foot, or eye, they must be destroyed. The exhortation is backed by the terrific threatening — “Hell, the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." "Hell,” Gehenna, or the valley of Hinnom, lying on the south of Jerusalem, noted as a place of idolatrous worship, where human sacrifices were offered to Moloch. This supplied the imagery here, under which the threatening of everlasting punishment is brought out. The awful idea is that of eternal dissolution—ever dying, never dead. The reference to the

salting with fire ” comes bere to assume terrible force. As salt preserves that on which it is rubbed, the fire shall not only consume, but shall act as salt in still keeping endlessly the victim under the great anguish —the deathless worm. The warning is followed up with another exhortation—"Have salt in yourselves.” “Salt is good.” It is the figure in this expression for true moral worth. " Have this " --let it be yours, as penetrating your whole being and preserving you blameless till the day of Christ. Show that you have it by being at "peace one with another. "

"And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: and seeing a fig-tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find anything thereon : and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves ; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it. And in the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig-tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, calling to remembrance, saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig-tree which thou cursedst is withered away. And Jesus answering, saith unto them, Have faith in God” (xi. 12-14, 20-22). Cumbered as this passage has been with conflicting attempts to explain it, the difficulty ceases to be formidable if we bear in mind, first, that the tree was taken by our Lord in order to bring out, under a symbol, certain great aspects of truth ; second, that, carrying out the symbolic idea, he dealt with the tree as if it were a moral agent; and third, that the narrative itself contains an intimation of the figurative use made of the tree“the time of figs was not yet.” This indeed is the key to the passage. The time of figs is in July. The earliest are not found sooner than about the middle of June, in any abundance. Prior to that date, however, some

first ripe figs” may be gathered. When the foliage is fully developed, as in this case, edible figs may be expected. The tree thus put forth a show of fruitfulness. It was dealt with as a pretender, in order that the disciples might infer, that God would deal with those who profess to have spiritual experience, of which they are destitute, in the same way. Profession is not enough : “Have faith in God.”

“Alabaster” (xiv. 3) is a well known marble-like mineral, used in inferior statuary, but mainly for vases, boxes, and similar articles. It abounds chiefly in tertiary strata. There are two kinds—one whose chief constituent is sulphate of lime, and another in which carbonate of lime prevails.

In noticing the various uses of myrrh, under Psalm xlv. 8, the twentythird verse of this chapter was referred to as illustrative of the employment of myrrh, administered in the form of a tincture, to deaden pain. Here as in other passages, with the exception of Gen. xxxvii. 25, xliii. 11, the myrrh spoken of was the produce, by exudation, of the Balsamadendron myrrha, or its variety the B. kataf, a shrub belonging to the natural order Amyridacece or myrrh family. The words “wine mingled with myrrh” (xv. 23), should have been “myrrhed wine" (ěsmyrnisménon oinon). This brings out the strength of the original expression by suggesting, that the bitter flavour of the spice predominated in the draught. Wine thus medicated was given to criminals before their execution, with the merciful motive, no doubt, of rendering them less sensible of pain. It was supposed to act in a similar way to a strong dose of laudanum. A little myrrh would have had a contrary effect. It would have acted as a stimulant and tonic, giving energy to all the vital organs, and thus making the subject more acutely alive to bodily pain. Accordingly the wine was myrrhed”—myrrh was the strongest element in the draught. This act of mercy could not be regarded as any relenting, or even as the springing up of compassion in the heart of the murderers of the Prince of Life, because it was a mere thing of custom, and showed that to the very last the Jews nationally looked on him as a common criminal. Thus the offer of the myrrhed wine came to be the literal fulfilment of the prophecy in Ps. Ixix. 20, 21. The practice was one of long standing. It is referred to in "the prophecy which King Lemuel's mother taught him” (Prov. xxvi. 6).

I have shown, by a comparison of passages under Jeremiah viii. 14, that the writers of Scripture use the different words translated "gall” for “bitter things” in general, except in such cases as those in which the scope of the context clearly demands a specific application. Matthew's account of the transactions on the cross bears, that they gave Jesus vinegar to drink mingled with gall" (xxvii

. 34). This has been explained under Matt. xxvii. 48. Mark, like the other evangelists, uses the term " vinegar" in the second offer of drink made to him (ver. 36). The Greek oxos was most frequently used in the sense of the Latin posca, the sour wine used by the Roman soldiers, much in the same way as the lowest class of French common red wine (Vin ordinaire) is used by the peasants in wine-growing countries. The Hebrew equivalent of both was the hhömetz, or vinegar, mentioned in Numb. vi. 2, under which the various kinds of vinegar in use in Bible times are referred to and illustrated.

There is thus no difference between the accounts of Mark and Matthew, when the former says, that “they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh," and the latter, that “they gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall.” The gall included in it the myrrh, and the wine was used as expressing the juice of the grape in general, one form of which was the oxos or sour wine named by Matthew and by John (xix. 29).

[ocr errors]


was fatal.

HE people with whom our Lord and his disciples were

called to associate, had, very generally, come to put outward observances in the place of inward life. They had degraded religion from its spirituality, and practised its requirements

as so many external rites, which had no influence either on the state of their hearts or on their bearing towards their

neighbours. Want of charity in judging others was the fruit of an exaggerated opinion of themselves. They were outwardly religious, but had wholly forgotten that the test of religious acts is to be found in the motives from which they spring. The mistake

It led them to neglect the state of the heart, and thus while they did much which seemed for God, they retained sin itself unchecked and unsubdued. These considerations show the point of our Lord's words. He says to them, Ye are not in circumstances to pass a judgment on your neighbour's conduct, if you have not previously formed a right estimate of your own. You are not equal to good acts if

your hearts are still evil—your motives still only those of sin. As well might the blind talk of seeing, as you may of being able to judge one another; and as well might men look for the nutritious fig on the thorn bush, or the luscious grape on the bramble, as I may for pious, holy, upright lives from you, when God's love aud grace do not influence your hearts. Every thing depends on the state of the heart. “For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (vi. 44, 45).

The“ bramble," Gr. batos, is the

" Wild bramble of the brake,"

the common bramble, Rubus fruticosus of botanists, the plant which yields the well known “ blackberries" of British hedgerows. It gives its name, Rubus, to a genus of plants belonging to the natural order

[merged small][graphic][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][graphic][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« VorigeDoorgaan »