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56You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

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Reconciliation to God.

54 And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is.   55 And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass.   56 Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?   57 Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?   58 When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison.   59 I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.

Having given his disciples their lesson in the foregoing verses, here Christ turns to the people, and gives them theirs, v. 54. He said also to the people: he preached ad populum—to the people, as well as ad clerum—to the clergy. In general, he would have them be as wise in the affairs of their souls as they are in their outward affairs. Two things he specifies:—

I. Let them learn to discern the way of God towards them, that they may prepare accordingly. They were weather-wise, and by observing the winds and clouds could foresee when there would be rain and when there would be hot weather (v. 54, 55); and, according as they foresaw the weather would be, they either housed their hay and corn, or threw it abroad, and equipped themselves for a journey? Even in regard to changes of the weather God gives warning to us what is coming, and art has improved the notices of nature in weather-glasses. The prognostications here referred to had their origin in repeated observations upon the chain of causes: from what has been we conjecture what will be. See the benefit of experience; by taking notice we may come to give notice. Whose is wise will observe and learn. See now.

1. The particulars of the presages: "When you see a cloud arising out of the west" (the Hebrew would say, out of the sea), "perhaps it is at first no bigger than a man's hand (1 Kings xviii. 44), but you say, There is a shower in the womb of it, and it proves so. When you observe the south wind blow, you say, There will be heat" (for the hot countries of Africa lay not far south from Judea), "and it usually comes to pass;" yet nature has not ties itself to such a track but that sometimes we are mistaken in our prognostics.

2. The inferences from them (v. 56): "Ye hypocrites, who pretend to be wise, but really are not so, who pretend to expect the Messiah and his kingdom" (for so the generality of the Jews did) "and yet are no way disposed to receive and entertain it, how is it that you do not discern this time, that you do not discern that now is the time, according to the indications given in the Old-Testament prophecies, for the Messiah to appear, and that, according to the marks given of him, I am he? Why are you not aware that you have now an opportunity which you will not have long, and which you may never have again, of securing to yourselves an interest in the kingdom of God and the privileges of that kingdom?" Now is the accepted time, now or never. It is the folly and misery of man that he knows not his time, Eccl. ix. 12. This was the ruin of the men of that generation, that they knew not the day of their visitation, ch. xix. 44. But a wise man's heart discerns time and judgment; such was the wisdom of the men of Issachar, who had understanding of the times, 1 Chron. xii. 32. He adds, "Yea, and why even of yourselves, though ye had not these loud alarms given you, judge ye not what is right? v. 57. You are not only stupid and regardless in matters that are purely of divine revelation, and take not the hints which that gives you, but you are so even in the dictates of the very light and law of nature." Christianity has reason and natural conscience on its side; and, if men would allow themselves the liberty of judging what is right, they would soon find that all Christ's precepts concerning all things are right, and that there is nothing more equitable in itself, nor better becoming us, than to submit to them and be ruled by them.

II. Let them hasten to make their peace with God in time, before it be too late, v. 58, 59. This we had upon another occasion, Matt. v. 25, 26. 1. We reckon it our wisdom in our temporal affairs to compound with those with whom we cannot contend, to agree with our adversary upon the best terms we can, before the equity be foreclosed, and we be left to the rigour of the law: "When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, to whom the appeal is made, and knowest that he has an advantage against thee, and thou art in danger of being cast, thou knowest it is the most prudent course to make the matter up between yourselves; as thou art in the way, give diligence to be delivered from him, to get a discharge, lest judgment be given, and execution awarded according to law." Wise men will not let their quarrels go to an extremity, but accommodate them in time. 2. Let us do thus in the affairs of our souls. We have by sin made God our adversary, have provoked his displeasure against us, and he has both right and might on his side; so that it is to no purpose to think of carrying on the controversy with him either at bar or in battle. Christ, to whom all judgment is committed, is the magistrate before whom we are hastening to appear: if we stand a trial before him, and insist upon our own justification, the cause will certainly go against us, the Judge will deliver us to the officer, the ministers of his justice, and we shall be cast into the prison of hell, and the debt will be exacted to the utmost; though we cannot make a full satisfaction for it, it will be continually demanded, till the last mite be paid, which will not be to all eternity. Christ's sufferings were short, yet the value of them made them fully satisfactory. In the sufferings of damned sinners what is wanting in value must be made up in an endless duration. Now, in consideration of this, let us give diligence to be delivered out of the hands of God as an adversary, into his hands as a Father, and this as we are in the way, which has the chief stress laid upon it here. While we are alive, we are in the way; and now is our time, by repentance and faith through Christ (who is the Mediator as well as the magistrate), to get the quarrel made up, while it may be done, before it be too late. Thus was God in Christ reconciling the world to himself, beseeching us to be reconciled. Let us take hold on the arm of the Lord stretched out in this gracious offer, that we may make peace, and we shall make peace (Isa. xxvii. 4, 5), for we cannot walk together till we be agreed.