Luke 20:4
John's baptism--was it from heaven, or from men?"
Sermons
The Great Teacher's SilenceW. Clarkson Luke 20:1-8
Christ's Collision with the SanhedrinR.M. Edgar Luke 20:1-19


I. CAUSE OF CHRIST'S AUTHORITY BEING CALLED IN QUESTION. The ostensible cause was the events of the preceding day; the real cause Satan's opposition to the work of Christ. On the day before he had displayed his zeal for the sanctity of God's house and the purity of its worship. He is now called to account because of the extraordinary efforts he bad made to put a stop to the public profanation of the house of God, and because of the no less extraordinary authority which he had exercised. Such appears to be the right reference of the ταῦτα in the question, though along with the purging of the temple may be included the miracles of healing that had been performed on the blind and lame who, as St. Matthew informs us, had resorted to him in the temple. Others, with less probability, refer the word to his teaching; for "he taught dally in the temple," as we read in St. Luke. All these, together with our Lord's triumphal entry, had sorely displeased and greatly discomfited the Jewish rulers, who now proceeded to call his authority in question. But the prime mover of this cavilling opposition was Satan. He was pursuing his usual tactics. Good is often done in an informal way, or by voluntary agencies, or by very humble instrumentalities; and Satan, when the fact of the good done is undeniable, stirs up men to impugn the authority or assail the commission of those Christian workers by whom the good is done, thus endeavoring to raise a false issue and stay its progress.

II. GREED OF GAIN VERSUS GODLINESS. The Church has its counterfeits as well as the world; there is no class altogether free from false disguises. Some, perhaps many, of those unholy traffickers who were desecrating the temple so that a second cleansing of it within the short period of three years had become a necessity, fancied they were doing God service and accommodating his worshippers; while their own sordid and selfish interests - their own love of gain and usurious greed - were their real and actuating motives. Was it strange that our Lord was roused to indignation, and resorted to the most active measures to expel from the sacred precincts those dealers in sheep and oxen, with their droves of cattle, those dove-sellers and money-changers, who, under the pretext of supplying the requisites for sacrifices to such as came from a distance, and the temple half-shekels to foreign Jews for their larger coins or coins with heathenish images and inscriptions, had their heart set on driving a profitable trade in this matter of the sacrifices, and their eye fixed on the κόλλυβος, or twelfth of a shekel, as the agio of exchange; while the noisy bargainings, unseemly wranglings, and general hubbub made the house of God resemble one of those caves where robbers quarrelled over their ill-got gains?

III. OUR LORD'S ANSWER TO THE QUESTION ABOUT AUTHORITY. The twofold question about our Lord's authority and its source was put by a deputation from the Sanhedrim - a deputation representative of the three chief sections of that body: namely, chief priests or heads of the twenty-four classes; scribes, the theologians or authorized interpreters of Scripture; and the elders or heads of the principal families. The question of this formidable deputation called forth a counter-question on the part of our Lord; nor was there any evasion in this. By asking them whether John's baptism was of heavenly or human origin, he effectually answered their question, and put them into a dilemma from which there was no escaping. If they admitted John's mission to have been from God, the matter was settled at once and decisively; for John had testified most positively and repeatedly to the Divine mission and consequent Divine authority of Jesus, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world;" and declaring that he would "baptize with the Holy Ghost." The alternative of John's mission being derived from a human source was what they dared not face, for it would bring them into collision with the crowd, and they were too cowardly for that.

IV. THE UNFAIRNESS OF THE QUESTION OF THE SANHEDRIM. Had they not had evidence of Jesus' authority in his exceptionally sinless life in the midst of all the temptations of a sinful world? Had they not evidence of his Divine authority in his teaching? - "for he taught as One having authority, and not as the scribes;" in "the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth"? - for the universal testimony was that "never man spake like this Man." Had they not proof in the miracles which he wrought - not prodigally, but properly and appropriately?

"But who so blind as those who will not see?
And who so deaf as those who will not hear?" J.J.G.







There were, therefore, seven brethren.
I. THAT THERE IS ANOTHER WORLD. Our Lord calls it that world. It is evidently opposed to "this world" (ver. 34); "the children of this world." We know a little of this world. Oh that we knew it aright! Oh that we saw it with the eyes of faith! The world of which we speak is a world of light, and purity, and joy. There is "no night there" (Revelation 21:25). Hell is eternal darkness; heaven is eternal light. No ignorance, no errors, no mistakes; but the knowledge of God in Christ begun on earth is there completed; for we shall know even as we are known (1 Corinthians 13:12).

II. IT WILL BE A GREAT MATTER TO OBTAIN THAT WORLD. Notice our Saviour's words, "they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world." Oh, it will be a great matter to obtain that world I It will be a matter of amazing grace and favour. And oh, what a matter of infinite joy will it be!

III. SOME KIND OF WORTHINESS IS NECESSARY TO THE OBTAINING OF THAT WORLD. "They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world." This worthiness includes merit and meetness; or, a title to glory, and a fitness for it. Both these are necessary. But where shall we look for merit? Not in man.

IV. THE RELATIONS OF THE PRESENT WORLD WILL NOT SUBSIST IN THE WORLD TO COME. Our Lord says, "They neither marry, nor are given in marriage." This expression is not intended to disparage that kind of union; for marriage was ordained by God Himself, while yet our first parents retained their original innocence. But in heaven this relation will cease, because the purposes for which it was instituted will also cease. Nor shall the glorified need the aid of that domestic friendship and comfort which result from the married state, and which are well suited to our embodied condition; for even in paradise the Creator judged it was not "good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18). But in heaven there will be no occasion for the lesser streams of happiness, when believers have arrived at the fountain. Oh, let us learn from hence to sit loose to all creature comforts.

V. IN THAT WORLD DEATH WILL BE FOR EVER ABOLISHED. This is a dying world.

VI. THE BLESSED INHABITANTS OF THAT WORLD SHALL BE LIKE THE ANGELS. "They are equal unto the angels."

VII. THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY WILL PERFECT THE BLISS OF GOD'S PEOPLE. "They are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection; they shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead."

(G. Burder.)

Creatures on the brink of the grave should not forget it, nor refuse to look into it.

1. Be reminded that we have persons resembling the Sadducees in our own times. There are some who seek to subvert the leading truths of religion; and the method they pursue is very like that followed by the Sadducees of old. They rarely make the attack openly, like honest and generous assailants; but they start difficulties, and endeavour to involve the subjects of inquiry in inextricable perplexity.

2. Let us be suitably affected by the doctrines of immortality and the resurrection here taught.

3. Once more, let us improve this passage in reference to the endearing relations of life. We are here reminded that death is coming to break them all up, and that short is the time we are to sustain them. Far be it from us to regard them with indifference. Religion requires us to fulfil their duties with all affection and faithfulness. Yet, they are of very limited duration, and very little value, in comparison with eternity.

(James Foote, M. A.)

I. GIVE SOME ACCOUNT OF THE SADDUCEES: — A small number of men of rank and affluence, who had shaken off such opinions and practices as they deemed a restraint upon their pleasures. They acknowledged the truth of the Pentateuch, but rejected the tradition of the elders. They also denied a future state, and believed that the soul dies with the body.

II. CONSIDER THE ARGUMENT OF THE SADDUCEES.

III. CONSIDER HOW JESUS CHRIST ACTED ON THIS OCCASION.

1. He removed the difficulty which had puzzled the Sadducees. They had not studied the Scriptures with sufficient attention, and a sincere desire of understanding their meaning. If they had done so, they could not have doubted of a future state. If, again, they had reflected on the power of God, they would have concluded that what might appear difficult or impossible to man, is possible and of easy accomplishment with God. He then explained the difficulty. It is to be observed, however, that He speaks only of the righteous. On this subject our Saviour reveals two important truths, — First, that the righteous never die; and, secondly, that they become like the angels.

2. Our Saviour, then, having removed the difficulty which had embarrassed the Sadducees, and having at the same time communicated new and important information concerning the world of spirits, next proceeded to prove from Scripture the certainty of a future state. He argued from a passage in the Book of Exodus, where God is represented as speaking from the burning bush to Moses, and saying, " I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob" (Exodus 3:6). It is here particularly to be observed, that the force of our Saviour's argument rests upon the words, I am the God. Had the words been I was the God, the argument would be destroyed.

IV. ATTEND TO THE INFERENCES WHICH WE MAY JUSTLY DRAW FROM THIS SUBJECT.

1. A difficulty arising from our ignorance is not sufficient to disprove or weaken direct or positive evidence.

2. Although a future state is not clearly revealed in the Books of Moses, yet it is presupposed, for the passage here selected can be explained only on the assurance that there is such a state.

3. From our Saviour's declaration here, we also obtain the important information, that the righteous, after their removal from this world by death, do not sink into a state of sleep or insensibility; for the passage which He quotes implies that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, after death, remained alive, and still continued to acknowledge and serve God; for all these things are included in what our Saviour says. Now, the inference we draw is, that what is true respecting the patriarchs we may safely extend to all good men, that they are all in a similar situation.

4. While informed by our Saviour, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, that immediately after death angels are employed to conduct the spirits of the righteous to paradise, we are also assured here by the same authority, that they shall be made like to the angels. When to these we add the passage quoted above, from the Epistle to the Hebrews, respecting the office of angels, it appears necessarily to follow that the righteous shall be elevated in rank and situation; for they shall associate with celestial beings, and consequently will receive all the benefits which can arise from society so pure and exalted. Nor can we help believing that while thus mingled with angels they will be engaged in similar duties and employments.

(J. Thompson, D. D.)

Expository Outlines.
I. THAT THERE IS ANOTHER STATE OF BEING BESIDE AND BEYOND THE PRESENT STATE. None can deny the importance of the question, "If a man die, shall he live again?"

1. The traditions of universal belief. It is said that there is not, perhaps, a people on the face of the earth which does not hold the opinion, in some form or other, that there is a country beyond the grave, where the weary are at rest. Yet this universality of belief is no proof; it is but a mere presumption at best.

2. Certain transformations which take place in nature around us. Such as that of the butterfly from the grave of the chrysalis, and spring from the grave of winter. Such analogies, however, although appropriate as illustrations, are radically defective as proofs. The chrysalis only seemed dead; the plants and trees only seemed to have lost their vitality.

3. There is, again, the dignity of man. But while much may be said on one side of this question, not a little can be said on the other. "Talk as you will," it has been said, "of the grandeur of man — why should it not be honour enough for him to have his seventy years' life-rent of God's universe?

4. It is by the gospel alone that life and immortality have been brought to light.

II. THAT THE FUTURE STATE IN MANY IMPORTANT PARTICULARS IS WIDELY DIFFERENT FROM THE PRESENT STATE. They differ —

1. In their constitution. "The children of this world marry, and arc given in marriage;" but there will be nothing of this kind in heaven. The institution of marriage is intended to accomplish two great objects.(1) the propagation of mankind. But in that world the number of the redeemed family will be complete, and hence marrying and giving in marriage will be done away.(2) Mutual help and sympathy.

2. In the blessedness enjoyed.(1) Negative. "Neither can. they die any more."(2) Positive. "They shall be equal unto the angels — in nature, immortality, purity, knowledge, happiness." It is further added, that they will be "the children of God, being children of the resurrection." To the blessing of adoption several gradations appertain. What is spoken of here is the highest. The apostle refers to it in those striking words, "Because the creature itself shall be delivered," etc. (Romans 8:21-23).

III. THAT BEFORE THIS GLORIOUS STATE CAN BE ENTERED UPON, CERTAIN PRE-REQUISITES ARE INDISPENSABLY REQUIRED. None can attain the world but those which shall be accounted worthy. Two things may be here noticed.

1. Our guilty persons must be accepted. That can only be done through the Lord Jesus — winning Christ, and being found in Him, not having on our own righteousness.

2. Our sinful nature must be renewed. Worthiness and meetness are often used as synonymous terms. Thus we read in one place, "Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance"; in another, "Bring forth fruits meet for repentance." So with the worthiness in the passage before us; it is to be understood as indicating meekness for the heavenly inheritance. Now, nothing that defileth can enter there. Holiness of heart and life is an essential qualification. The pure alone shall see God.

(Expository Outlines.)

Once, we have somewhere read, there was a gallant ship whose crew forgot their duties on board by the distant vision of their native hills. Many long years had passed over them since they had left their fatherland. As soon as one of their number caught, from the top mast, the first glance of his home-scenes, he raised a shout, "Yonder it is! yonder it is!" That shout shot like electricity through every heart on board, all sought to catch the same glance, some climbed the masts, others took the telescope, every eye was on it, and every heart went forth with the eye; every spirit was flooded with old memories and bounded with new hopes. All thoughts of the vessel on which they stood, and which was struggling with the billows, were gone; they were lost in the strange and strong excitement. The vessel might have sprung a leak, run on shore, or sunk to the bottom for ought they thought about her. The idea of home filled and stirred their natures; the thought of the land in which their fathers lived and perhaps their mothers slept; the land of their childhood, and the land of a thousand associations so swallowed up every other thought, that their present duties were utterly neglected. Somewhat thus, perhaps, it would be with us, were the particulars of the heavenly world made clear and palpable to our hearts. The veil of secrecy drawn over them is woven by the hand of mercy.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Christian Age.
Casper Hauser was shut up in a narrow, dimly-lighted chamber when a little child. He grew to manhood there. He never saw the earth or the sky. He knew nothing about flowers or stars, mountains or plains, forests or streams. If one had gone to him and tried to tell him of these things, of the life of men in city or country, of the occupations of men in shop or field, the effort would have been a failure. No words could have conveyed to him any idea of the world outside of his cell. And we are like him while shut up in these bodies. The spirit must go out of its clay house before it can begin to know anything definite about life in the spirit world.

(Christian Age.)

Equal unto the angels
Glorified saints are equal to the angels.

I. IN THEIR DIGNIFIED POSITION.

II. IN THEIR SUBLIME WORSHIP.

III. IN THEIR UNDECAYING STRENGTH (Psalm 103:20; Zechariah 12:8). Like angels, the dead in Christ shall henceforth excel in strength. Weariness and fatigue shall be for ever unknown.

IV. IN THEIR MINISTERING SERVICE (Hebrews 1:14).

V. IN LOVING OBEDIENCE. We read of angels that they "do His commandments, hearkening to the voice of His word."

VI. IN THEIR EARNEST STUDY OF THE MYSTERY OF REDEEMING LOVE. Speaking of the Gospel and its priceless privileges and blessings, Peter says, "Which things the angels desire to look into" (1 Peter 1:12).

VII. IN THE JOYFUL INTEREST WHICH THEY FEEL IN THE SALVATION OF SINNERS.

VIII. IN THEIR IMMORTAL YOUTH. Angels grow not old, as men on earth do. They wear no traces of age; revolving years tell not on them.

(P. Morrison.)

I. MEN ARE CAPABLE OF BEING MADE EQUAL TO THE ANGELS. That man is capable of equalling the angels in the duration of their existence, may be very easily shown. Originally he was, like them, immortal. But what man once possessed, he must still be capable of possessing. Equally easy is it to show that man is capable of being made equal to the angels in moral excellence. The moral excellence of creatures, whether human or angelic, consists in their conformity to the law of God. Originally he was perfectly holy; for God made man upright, in His own image, and this image consisted, as inspiration informs us, in righteousness and true holiness. Man is then capable of being made equal to the angels in mural excellence. Man is also capable of being raised to an intellectual equality with the angels, or being made equal to them in wisdom and knowledge. The image of God in whack he was created, included knowledge, as well as righteousness and true holiness. He was, as inspiration informs us, but little lower than the angels. But this small intellectual inferiority, on the part of man, may be satisfactorily accounted for, without supposing that his intellectual faculties are essentially inferior to those of angels, or that his mind is incapable of expanding to the full dimensions of angelic intelligence. It may be accounted for by difference of situation, and of advantages for intellectual improvement. Man was placed on the earth, which is God's footstool. But angels were placed in heaven, which is His throne, His palace, and the peculiar habitation of His holiness and glory. They were thus enabled approach much nearer, than could earth-born man, to the great Father of lights; and their minds were, in consequence, illuminated with far more than a double portion of that Divine, all-disclosing radiance which diffuses itself around Him. If the mind of an infant can expand, during the lapse of a few years, to the dimensions of a Newton's mind, notwithstanding all the unfavourable circumstances in which it is here placed, why may it not, during an eternal residence in heaven, with the omniscient, all-wise God for its teacher, expand so far as to embrace any finite circle whatever? Little, if any, less reason have we to believe that he is capable of being made equal to them in power. It has been often remarked that knowledge is power; and observation must convince every one that it is so. Man's advances in knowledge have ever been accompanied by a proportionate increase of power. A knowledge of metals gave him power to subdue the earth. But we have already seen that man is capable of being made equal to the angels in knowledge. Again, man is capable of being raised to an equality with the angels in glory, honour, and felicity. The glory of a creature must consist principally in the intellectual and moral excellences with which he is endued; and we have already seen that in these respects man is capable of being made equal to the angels.

II. THAT IN THE FUTURE WORLD, GOOD MEN SHALL BE MADE EQUAL TO THEM IN EACH OF THESE PARTICULARS. The fact that men are capable of being made equal to the angels, goes far to prove the truth of this proposition. From the appearance of Moses and Elijah on the mount of transfiguration, it seems evident that they possessed power of various kinds, of which we are destitute. They had power to descend from the mansions of the blessed, and to return, and also, as it should seem, to render themselves visible or invisible, at their pleasure. Indeed it is certain, that in some respects at least, the powers of the righteous must be greatly increased, or they would be unable to sustain that far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, and honour, and felicity, which is reserved for them in the future world. There is a dreadful counterpart to this truth, which, though not mentioned in our text, must be briefly noticed. Every argument, which proves that good men are capable of being made equal to the holy angels, may justly be considered as proving, with equal clearness, that wicked men are capable of equalling the fallen angels, who kept not their first estate.

(E. Payson, D. D.)

I. IN HEAVEN THE SAINTS ARE HOLY AS THE ANGELS ARE HOLY.

II. IN HEAVEN THE SAINTS, LIKE THE ANGELS, SHALL ENGAGE IN BECOMING ACTS AND EXERCISES.

1. I say acts and exercises, for while heaven is to be a place of rest, it is not to be a place of idleness. In heaven the saints are to be as angels, and angels, we know, are active in the service of God.

2. In particular, the saints, like the angels, engage in singing the praises of God.

3. Further, the saints, like the angels, are engaged in contemplating the works of God, and especially His wonders in providence and redemption.

4. Yet further, in heaven the saints, like the angels, are engaged in works of love. The angels, we have seen, are actively employed in the service of God. The whole method of the Divine procedure, so far as it comes under our view, seems to be carried on by a system of means or instruments. God fulfils His purposes by agents employed by Him who are blessed themselves and conveying blessings to others, who are happy and diffusing happiness. Even in inanimate creation on earth we find that nothing is useless; everything has a purpose to serve: the stone, the plant, the animal, every part of the plant and animal has a purpose to serve; it may be an end in itself, but it is also a means towards another end. The ear aids the eye, and the touch aids the ear and eye, and every member aids every other; it is good in itself, and is doing good to others. But these inanimate objects perform their work unknowingly, unconsciously. It is different with angels and the spirits of just men made perfect. They perform their allotted work knowing what they are doing, and blessed in the doing of it. Modern science shows us how much material agency can do. Take, as an example, the electric telegraph, which is every day carrying messages past your place. A methodical action is performed at one end of a wire, and in a few moments an intelligent communication is given at the other end, hundreds of miles away. It is a proof of the capacity of body. We know that our Lord's body after His resurrection appeared and disappeared, and acted no one could tell how. But in the resurrection our bodies will be like His, spiritual and celestial. They will therefore be fit ministers to the perfected spirit — not, as here, hindrances at times, but always helps, and ready to fulfil the will of the spirit.

(J. McCosh, D. D.)

Ours is a dying world, and immortality has no place upon this earth. That which is deathless is beyond these hills. Mortality is here; immortality is yonder! Mortality is below; immortality is above. "Neither can they die any more," is the prediction of something future, not the announcement of anything either present or past. At every moment one of the sons of Adam passes from this life. And each swing of the pendulum is the death-warrant of some child of time. "Death," "death," is the sound of its dismal vibration. "Death," "death," it says, unceasingly, as it oscillates to and fro. The gate of death stands ever open, as if it had neither locks nor bars. The river of death flows sullenly past our dwellings, and continually we hear the splash and the cry of one, and another, and another, as they are flung into the rushing torrent, and carried down to the sea of eternity. If, then, we would get beyond death's circle and shadow, we must look above. Death is here, but life is yonder! Corruption is here, incorruption is yonder. The fading is here, the blooming is yonder. Blessed words are these: "Neither can they die any more." It is not simply, Neither shall they die any more, but neither can they die any more. Death, which is now a law, an inevitable necessity, shall then be an impossibilty. Blessed impossibility! Neither can they die any more! They are clothed with the immortality Of the Son of God; for as the Head is immortal, so shall the members be. Ah, this is victory over death! This is the triumph of life! It is more than resurrection; for it is resurrection, with the security that death can never again approach them throughout eternity. All things connected with that new resurrection-state shall be immortal, too. Their inheritance is unfading. Their city, the new Jerusalem, shall never crumble down. Their paradise is as much beyond the power of decay as it is beyond the reach of a second serpent-tempter. Their crowns are all imperishable; and the white raiment in which they shine shall never need cleansing or renewal.

(H. Bonar, D. D.)

Moses showed at the bush
I. GOD IS THE GOD OF ALL MEN, HOWEVER DIFFERENT FROM EACH OTHER THEY MAY BE. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to name three men so closely related to each other, and yet so conspicuously different from each other, as were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Abraham is of the grandest heroic type — heroic in thought, in action, and, above all, in that faith which is the inspiration both of the highest thinking and of the noblest forms of conduct. But what a falling off is there in Isaac! He hardly seems his father's son. Quiet, thoughtful, a lover of ease and good fare, with no genius for action, his very wife chosen for him as if he were incompetent even to marry himself, unable to rule his own household, unable even to die — it would almost seem, when his time was come, that he fades out of history years before he slips his mortal coil. Jacob, again, strikes one as unlike both his father and his grandfather. We think of him as timid, selfish, crafty, unscrupulous, with none of the innocence of Isaac, little or none of the splendid courage and generosity of Abraham. What I want you to mark, then, is the grace of God in calling Himself, as He did for more than a thousand years by the mouth of His servants the prophets, the God of each and all of these three men. Different as they were from each other, they are all dear to Him. He has room enough in His heart for them all. Rightly viewed, then, there is hope for us and for all men in this familiar phrase. If God is not ashamed to call Himself their God, may He not, will He not, be our God too, and train us as He trained them, till all that is weak and selfish and subtle in us is chastened out of us, and we recover the image in which He created us?

II. GOD OUR FATHER WILL NEVER LET HIS CHILDREN DIE. The text our Lord quoted was this: To Moses at the bush — between four and five hundred years, that is, after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were dead — Jehovah had said, "I am," — not I was — "the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob." But how could He still be the God of these men if they had long been extinct? He is not the God of dead men, but of living men. The three patriarchs were very certainly not living in this world when God spoke to Moses. They must, therefore, have been living in some other world. Dead to men, they must have been alive unto God. Obviously, then, men do not all die when they die.

1. Because our Lord saw in God the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, He inferred that these men could not die; that even when they did die, they must have lived on unto God. And that after all is, I suppose, the argument or conviction on which we all really base our hope of immortality. "Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One? We shall not die." The eternity of God implies the immortality of man.

2. But our Lord at least reminds us by His words of another ground for hope. Nature has many symbols which speak of a life capable of passing through death, a life which grows in volume, in power, in beauty, by its submission to death. Every spring we behold the annual miracle by which the natural world is renewed into a richer, lovelier life. Year by year it emerges from its wintry tomb into the fuller and more fruitful life of summer. We may not care to base any very weighty arguments on these delicate and evanescent yet continually-recurring symbols; but, nevertheless, they speak to our imagination and our hearts with a force and a winning persuasiveness beyond that of logic.

III. What is to hinder us from arguing that, if God is still their God, and they still live unto Him, then GOD MUST EVEN NOW BE CARRYING ON THE DISCIPLINE AND TRAINING WHICH HE COMMENCED UPON THEM HERE, and carrying it on to still larger and happier issues? If they live, and live unto God, must they not be moving into a closer fellowship with Him, rising to a more hearty adoption of His will, a fuller participation of His righteousness and love? No one of you will question the validity of such an argument as that, I think. You will all gladly admit that, since he still lives, Abraham must by this time be a far greater and nobler man than he was when he left the earth, and must be engaged in far nobler discoveries and enterprises.

I. WE WILL CONSIDER IT AS AN ARGUMENT AD HOMINEM, AND SHEW THE FITNESS AND FORCE OF IT TO CONVINCE THOSE WITH WHOM OUR SAVIOUR DISPUTED.

1. We will consider what our Saviour intended directly and immediately to prove by this argument. And that was this, That there is another state after this life, wherein men shall be happy or miserable according as they have lived in this world. And this doth not only suppose the immortality of the soul, but forasmuch as the body is an essential part of man, doth, by consequence, infer the resurrection of the body; because, otherwise, the man would not be happy or miserable in another world.

2. The force of this argument, against those with whom our Saviour disputed, will further appear, if we consider the great veneration which the Jews in general had for the writings of Moses above any other books of the Old Testament, which they (especially the Sadducees) looked upon only as explications and comments upon the law of Moses; but they esteemed nothing as a necessary article of faith, which had not some foundation in the writings of Moses. And this seems to me to be the true reason why our Saviour chose to confute them out of Moses, rather than any other part of the Old Testament.

3. If we consider further the peculiar notion which the Jews had concerning the use of this phrase or expression, of God's being any one's God. And that was this" that God is nowhere in Scripture said to be any one's God while he was alive. And, therefore, they tell us, that while Isaac lived, God is not called the God of Isaac, but the "fear of Isaac." I will not warrant this observation to be good, because I certainly know it is not true. For God doth expressly call Himself "the God of Isaac," while Isaac was yet alive (Genesis 28:10): "I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac." It is sufficient to my purpose that this was a notion anciently current among the Jews. And therefore our Saviour's argument from this expression must be so much the stronger against them: for if the souls of men be extinguished by death (as the Sadducees believed) what did it signify to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to have God called their God, after they were dead?

4. The great respect which the Jews had for these three fathers of their nation, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They, who had so superstitious a veneration for them, would easily believe anything of privilege to belong to them: so that our Saviour doth with great advantage instance in them, in favour of whom they would be inclined to extend the meaning of any promise to the utmost, and allow it to signify as much as the words could possibly bear. So that it is no wonder that the text tells us, that this argument put the Sadducees to silence. They durst not attempt a thing so odious, as to go about to take away anything of privilege from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

II. ENQUIRE WHETHER IT BE MORE THAN AN ARGUMENT AD HOMINEM. The following considerations would appear to indicate that our Lord really meant the matter to be regarded as settled fact.

1. If we consider that for God to be any one's God doth signify some very extraordinary blessing and happiness to those persons of whom this is said. It is a big word for God to declare Himself to be any one's God; and the least we can imagine to be meant by it, is that God will, in an extraordinary manner, employ His power and wisdom to do him good: that He will concern Himself more for the happiness of those whose God He declares Himself to be, than for others.

2. If we consider the eminent faith and obedience of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Abraham left his country in obedience to God, not knowing whither he was to go. And, which is one of the most unparalleled and strange instances of faith and obedience that can be almost imagined, he was willing to have sacrificed his only son at the command of God. Isaac and Jacob were also very good men, and devout worshippers of the true God, when almost the whole world was sunk into idolatry and all manner of impiety. Now what can we imagine, but that the good God did design some extraordinary reward to such faithful servants of His? especially if we consider, that He intended this gracious declaration of His concerning them, for a standing encouragement to all those who, in after ages, should follow the faith, and tread in the steps of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

3. If we consider the condition of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in this world. The Scripture tells us, that "they were pilgrims and strangers upon the earth," had no fixed and settled habitation, but were forced to wander from one kingdom and country to another; that they were exposed to many hazards and difficulties, to great troubles and afflictions in this world; so that there was no such peculiar happiness befel them, in this life, above the common rate of men, as may seem to fill up the big words of this promise, that God would be their God.

4. Then, we will consider the general importance of this promise, abstracting from the particular persons specified and named in it, viz., Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and that is, that God will make a wide and plain difference between good and bad men; He will be so the God of good men as He is not of the wicked: and some time or other put every good man into a better and happier condition than any wicked man: so that the general importance of this promise is finally resolved into the equity and justice of the Divine Providence.And now having, I hope, sufficiently cleared this matter, I shall make some improvement of this doctrine of a future state, and that to these three purposes.

1. To raise our minds above this world, and the enjoyments of this present life.

2. The consideration of another life should quicken our preparation for that blessed state which remains for us in the other world.

3. Let the consideration of that unspeakable reward which God hath promised to good men at the resurrection, encourage us to obedience and a holy life. We serve a great Prince who is able to promote us to honour; a most gracious Master who will not let the least service we do for Him pass unrewarded. This is the inference which the apostle makes from his large discourse of the doctrine of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:58). Nothing will make death more welcome to us, than a constant course of service and obedience to God. "Sleep (saith Solomon) is sweet to the labouring man": so after a great diligence and industry in " working out our own salvation," and (as it is said of David) "serving our generation according to the will of God," how pleasant will it be to fall asleep! And, as an useful and well-spent life will make our death to be sweet, so our resurrection to be glorious.

(Archbishop Tillotson.)

In the words of the text, the ground on which our Blessed Lord declares the resurrection of men to rest, is well worthy of our deepest attention. He does not say that because He Himself was ere long to be crucified and to rise again, therefore mankind should also rise. He goes down even deeper than this, to the very root of all hope and life for man; to that on which His own incarnation and death and resurrection rest; to the very foundation of being — even the nature of God Himself. Because God is God; the living and unchangeable God; because He has called us into existence, and made us what we are; because He has revealed Himself as our God; and taken us into covenant with Himself, therefore, man shall not — man cannot,-perish. But there is another most blessed and comforting truth taught us in the text; without which resurrection would cease to be a blessing, would lose all power to console and strengthen, would become a dark and dismal phantom. God is the God, — not of solitary and separate souls, — but the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob; the God of father and son and grandson; the God who has appointed and preserves the order of human society, upholds its relationships, and will not disappoint the pure and sweet affections which have been nurtured in them. Would Abraham be the same Abraham if there were no Isaac; Isaac, the same Isaac, if there were no Abraham and Jacob? Nay, if the dishonour of forgetfulness were, in the life beyond the grave, thrown on the human loves and affections which have been born on earth, would God be the same God?

(J. N. Bennie, LL. B.)

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