« VorigeDoorgaan »
doctrine was substituted, which struck at the very root of that formality which, in their view, formed the very essence of religious character. If Jesus would speak of a truly good and a truly happy man, he describes him not as tithing mint and anise and cummin, as fasting with scrupulous exactness, and praying at the corners of the streets, that he might be seen of men. Such a description would have been completely in harmony with all the Jewish conceptions of the man on whose honoured head the approving smile of heaven would rest. The portrait, however, which Jesus draws, is one which they imagine must surely be the creation of his own fancy. An humble, meek, lowly, suffering, despised man-He pronounces such a one happy. So far is the Jew from entertaining any notions kindred to these, that he regards every instance of suffering as necessarily connected with personal sin, and it is long since he has learned to mistake and to misinterpret the language of the prophets, who speak of a lowly, suffering Messiah, and to expect instead of Him a powerful conqueror, a triumphant king.
Jesus knows what is passing in their minds. He sees that all He has said of the character and the responsibility of the true Christian has excited many a doubt whether He Himself was indeed the Messiah promised to the Fathers, whether one setting forth such claims would have spoken in such direct opposi
tion to all that they believed the Word of God contained. The Saviour accordingly proceeds to rectify their opinions on this important subject, and to show them that so far from thinking or speaking lightly of the Old Testament scriptures, it was the express object and design of His coming to fulfil all that was written therein concerning Him.
V. 17. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy but to fulfil." According to the Jews the writings of the Old Testament were usually divided into three portions, termed the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, or Poetical Books. Frequently, however, the whole are summed up in two portions, the Law and the Prophets. Here, however, it may be observed Jesus uses the expression the Law or the Prophets probably to meet the views of the different parties which formed His audience. Among them were Sadducees, who chiefly and almost exclusively venerated the Law of Moses, while Scribes and Pharisees also were there who regarded the Law and the Prophetical Books as possessed equally of Divine authority. To all who adhered, under whatever form, to the Jewish Scriptures, the remark of Jesus was addressed, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfil." He knew the inmost thoughts of His hearers. saw the suspicion
rising in their minds that the doctrines to which they had been listening were opposed to all their views of the mind of God in His word; and He declares to them that He had come on very purpose not to destroy but to fulfil. The law of God was hid within His heart. He had been "made of a woman, made under the law, that He might redeem us who were under the law." As God He was above
all law, being Himself the righteous Lawgiver. But to accomplish His great work as mediator He became subject to that very Law which He himself had given, and yielding to it the perfect obedience of the God-man, Christ Jesus, He magnified the Law, and made it honourable. Thus by His obedience unto the death He became the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth. The demands of the Law were fully satisfied, and the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in all his people.
And not only did Jesus come to fulfil the Law, but the Prophets also. The Old Testament is one entire prophecy of Christ, and, therefore, if our Lord would recommend to the Jews to search their own Scriptures, the argument which He urges upon them is that they testify of Him. The law of Moses itself, with all its ceremonial institutions, was simply a shadow of good things to come. It involved, no doubt, a charge of sin addressed to all who engaged in its observances; but with no other view than that those who were un
der it might be shut up unto the faith of the Gospel. It involved, no doubt, in its numerous sacrifices the notion of atonement, but with no other view than to direct the eye of faith to that sacrifice which was ordained to be offered up on Calvary, and which was alone available as an atonement for sin. It involved, no doubt, the idea of cleansing, but only as prefiguring the work of the Holy Spirit, whose agency, with all its blessed effects, constitutes the peculiar glory of the Gospel dispensation. In this aspect, therefore, the Jewish economy may be viewed as one grand type, emblem, prophecy of Christ. And not only in figure, but in plain language does the Old Testament speak of Christ. A series of prophecies extending over the whole line of ancient history, from the fall of man to the coming of the Messiah, affords a striking and impressive testimony to the truth of the assertion, "I came not to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I came not to destroy but to fulfil." All that was written concerning Christ hath been fully accomplished, and every word that God hath spoken shall assuredly come to pass. Jesus accordingly adds :—
V. 18. "For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."
The Redeemer, in using at the commencement of this verse an expression which is equivalent to an
66 one tittle," the smallest
oath, is evidently desirous of impressing upon His hearers the solemn assurance that the law of God is, and must be of perpetual obligation. The word of God abideth for ever: It is like Himself, unchangeable and eternal. His works are destined to exist only for a time. "The heavens and the earth shall pass away." "The heavens shall pass away like a scroll, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat," but not the smallest, and apparently most unimportant statement that comes from the mouth of God shall fail of its entire accomplishment. The expression which our Lord here uses is strong. "One jot," the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, or dash of the pen intended to distinguish letters that are nearly alike, shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled. The law of God shall be fulfilled, for it is a transcript of Himself. It must be eternally and unchangeably binding on every intelligent creature whom God hath made. It asserts its claims either to obedience or to punishment with unflinching strictness, and though, to the believer, it has ceased to be a covenant of works on the ground of which he can expect to enter into life, it still remains in all its original integrity as a rule of life. In no way can it be relaxed in its obligations or mitigated in its demands. And hence our Lord declares,
V. 19. "Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of