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conceiving that either of those events could ever take place, cried, "God forbid!" Our Lord, in reply, referred them to their own Scriptures, and added a most awful declaration of his own, in order that he might impress the passage more deeply on their minds. We shall consider,
I. The passage appealed to
The words in their primary sense refer to David”— But they most undoubtedly have a reference to Christ also
[Christ is represented in Scripture as the stone that should both support and connect the Church of God: and the passage referred to in the text particularly declared, that he should be rejected by the very persons whose duty it was to edify and build up the Church. It announced however the determination of God to frustrate their designs, and to establish him as the head of the corner in spite of all their endeavours to destroy him. In this view the passage is quoted no less than six times in the New Testament: and its full accomplishment was triumphantly proclaimed before the very builders who had rejected him—j
The particular manner in which our Lord appealed to them is worthy of notice
[He "beheld" the objectors with a mixture of indignation and pity. He referred them to the words as to a passage well known among them, and generally considered even among themselves as applicable to the Messiah. His very look, together with the pointed manner of his address, intimated to them, that they were at that moment ignorantly fulfilling that prophecy, and that nothing but the most inveterate prejudice could induce them to persist one moment longer in such glaring impiety.]
The importance of this appeal will more strongly appear, if we consider,
II. The declaration founded upon it
b David's establishment on the throne of Israel had been opposed to the uttermost : Saul had laboured incessantly to kill him after the death of Saul, two tribes only acknowledged him as their king: it was seven years before the other tribes became subject to him and then all the surrounding nations sought his destruction. But God made him triumphant over all in remembrance of which mercy he penned the words before us. See Ps. cxviii. 10, 22.
e Isai. xxviii. 16.
d Acts ii. 36. and iv. 11, 12.
The latter part of the text is understood by most as intimating the more aggravated punishment that persecutors would incur beyond that of other unbelievers®. Perhaps we may rather understand it as importing,
1. That all, who stumble at Christ, greatly endanger their own souls
[Many are the grounds of offence which Christ affords to proud and ungodly men. To some the sublimity, to others the simplicity, to some the strictness, and to others the grace of his Gospel, becomes a stumbling-block. Hence some professedly "deny the Lord who bought them," while others, "call him Lord, but will not do what he commands." These equally stumble at Christ himself. And as he who falls upon a great stone, will bruise and maim his body, so does he who thus stumbles at Christ wound his own soul. Solomon, expressly speaking of Christ, attests this awful truth"]
2. That they who provoke him to cut them off in their impenitence, will perish certainly and without a remedy
[Many have rejected him for a season, and found acceptance with him at last; but they who abide in unbelief must inevitably perish. The despised Jesus will fall upon them at the last day, and grind them to powder: the weight of rocks and mountains would not more effectually crush a potter's vessel, than he will his obstinate and unbelieving enemies'.]
Surely this is a declaration which deserves the deepest attention
[They who oppose the truth of Christ, think that they shall retard his work; at least, they do not apprehend that they shall endanger themselves. But they "kick against the pricks." As well may persons hope to wound a rock by casting themselves down upon it, as that they shall ever prevail against the Church of Christ: the injury will ultimately be sustained by themselves alone. The voice of God therefore
e They suppose also that there is an allusion to the manner in which persons were stoned to death, viz. by casting them down first upon a large stone, and then throwing large stones upon them.
f 1 Pet. ii. 8.
8 What pangs of conscience, and dread of death and judgment, do such persons experience! k Acts ix. 5.
h Prov. viii. 30, 36.
i Ps. ii. 9.
in the text is like that of David, "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way'.]
1. Attend diligently to every word of God which ye read or hear
[The knowledge, which the Jews had by means of the Scriptures, rendered their guilt in rejecting Christ incomparably more heinous than that of the Roman soldiers; and we who enjoy the still clearer light of the New Testament, must contract ten-fold guilt if we reject him. How shall we be able to endure that appeal which will be made to us in the day of judgment, Were not such and such things written respecting me? were not my invitations, promises, and expostulations set before you? were you not forewarned of the evils which a rejection of me would bring upon you?' Give earnest heed then to the word ye hear, lest, instead of proving a savour of life unto life, it become a savour of death unto death".] 2. Examine carefully what regard ye are paying to Christ
[All do not make him the head of the corner: many reject him still. If we be not with him, we are against him". All that disobey him, as truly stumble at him, as if they were his avowed enemies. Inquire then whether ye make him the foundation whereon ye build, and the corner-stone that unites you in love to every part of God's spiritual temple. By this must ye know that ye are his true disciples.]
3. Be thankful if you have attained even the smallest knowledge of Christ
[There is no hope whatever for those who, in a Christian land, die ignorant of Christ. But they who know him, have nothing to fear. To them is promised eternal life. When the whole assembly of the ungodly shall be banished from his presence, they shall stand with great boldness'. When the wicked will be crying to the rocks and mountains to fall upon them, the followers of the Lamb will be triumphing in their God. This promise is sure to all the seed. Let Jesus then be more precious to all our souls; let us willingly consent to his being the head of the corner; let us, as lively stones, ever seek to be built up upon him; and, though we should be despised and rejected like him, let us never be ashamed of owning him as all our salvation and all our desire.]
ENCOURAGEMENT TO BEAR PERSECUTION.
Luke xxi. 17-19. Ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls.
IN applying to ourselves the addresses of our Lord to his Disciples, we are liable to err, if we do not distinguish between their situation and our own. As far as we are in their circumstances, the application will be just, but no further. They were taught to expect on trying occasions such aid from God, as would entirely supersede the necessity of study on their part but if we should form such expectations, we should only tempt God, and expose his cause to the derision of his enemies. Nevertheless, inasmuch as we are subject to many of the same difficulties with them, we may reasonably hope for the same supports and consolations. Though therefore we willingly concede, that it would be enthusiastic and absurd in us to expect the miraculous influences which were vouchsafed to them, we may regard the words before us as addressed to ourselves. In them we have, I. An alarming declaration—
[Piety has been an object of aversion to fallen man in all agesb Where it has appeared in its most perfect forms, it has been most reviled and persecuted- -It might have been hoped indeed that the glorious effects of Christianity would disarm its enemies: but the enmity of the human heart against God has never appeared so strong, as it has since the establishment of Christianity in the world And to this
hour does a conformity to its precepts call forth the same wrath and bitterness as it did in the Apostle's days. The laws enacted for its support do indeed restrain men from executing all that is in their hearts: but the words of our Lord are still verified in every place; nor can any wisdom or prudence in the professors of religion exempt them from the reproach connected with it. Amongst other reasons for the aversion of men to Christianity in the first ages, a very prominent one was, that it was an unaccommodating religion, and claimed, not only a
a ver. 14, 15.
pre-eminence above every other, but an exclusive existence in the world. Had the followers of Jesus been content that his name should have been enrolled among the list of heathen deities, they would have been no more hated than the professors of any other religion: and if at this time the followers of Christ would connive at the existence of other tenets and other practices than those which Christianity enjoins, they would be admired, rather than hated, by an ungodly world. But their exclusive claims in its behalf subject them to the fiercest resentment of those who are hostile to its requisitions. Not content with serving the Lord Jesus Christ themselves, they call upon all others to serve him too, and that at the peril of their souls: hence all who are determined to follow their own ways must, in their own vindication as it were, condemn those who so greatly differ from them: and hence, as long as that difference exists in the world, the enmity excited by it will operate.]
To fortify us against these trials, our Lord graciously gives us,
II. A consoling promise
[The expression used by our Lord was proverbial: it occurs in many other parts of Scripture; and signifies, that no real evil shall arise to the person of whom it is spoken. It cannot mean that he shall experience no trouble; for in the preceding context it is said, that "many shall be put to death:" but it is equivalent to that expression of St. Peter, "Who is he that shall harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?" and it accords with that promise of God by the Prophet Jeremiah, "Turn ye every one from your evil ways, and I will do you no hurt." Two things are implied in it; namely, that no evil whatever shall accrue to the person but by the express permission of God; and that none shall be inflicted, which shall not be over-ruled for his eternal good.
Little do the world think how much their powers are limited by the special providence of God. They boast of their purposes; but find that "wherein they deal proudly, there is One that is above them," "who disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that they cannot perform their enterprise." Laban and Esau menaced great things against the defenceless Jacob; but they could effect nothing: and every believer may address his enemies in the words of Christ to Pilate, "Ye can have no power at all against me, except it be given you from above."
The Christian's enemies do indeed often appear to triumph: but it is in appearance only, and not in reality; for they can do nothing which God will not " make to work together for good e Jer. xxv. 5, 6. f Job v. 12.
d 1 Pet. iii. 13.