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16. Tested by Pharisees

The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. 2He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. 3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? 4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed. 5And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.

6Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. 7And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. 8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? 9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? 12Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

13When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 20Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

21From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. 22Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. 23But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

24Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. 28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

Matthew 16:5. And when his disciples came. Here Christ takes occasion from the circumstance that had just occurred 432432     “Ici Christ prenant occasion des propos precedens;” — “here Christ taking occasion from the former discourse.” to exhort his disciples to beware of every abuse that makes an inroad on sincere piety. The Pharisees had come a little before; the Sadducees joined them; and apart from them stood Herod, a very wicked man, and an opponent and corrupter of sound doctrine. In the midst of these dangers it was very necessary to warn his disciples to be on their guard; for, since the human mind has a natural inclination towards vanity and errors, when we are surrounded by wicked inventions, spurious doctrines, and other plagues of the same sort, nothing is more easy than to depart from the true and simple purity of the word of God; and if we once become entangled in these things, it will never be possible for the true religion to hold an entire sway over us. But to make the matter more clear, let us examine closely the words of Christ.

Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. Along with the Pharisees Matthew mentions the Sadducees Instead of the latter, Mark speaks of Herod Luke takes no notice of any but the Pharisees, (though it is not absolutely certain that it is the same discourse of Christ which Luke relates,) and explains the leaven to be hypocrisy In short, he glances briefly at this sentence, as if there were no ambiguity in the words. Now the metaphor of leaven, which is here applied to false doctrine, might have been employed, at another time, to denote the hypocrisy of life and conduct, or the same words might even have been repeated a second time. But there is no absurdity in saying, that those circumstances which are more copiously detailed by the other two Evangelists, in the order in which they took place, are slightly noticed by Luke in a manner somewhat different, and out of their proper place or order, but without any real contradiction. If we choose to adopt this conjecture, hypocrisy will denote here something different from a pretended and false appearance of wisdom. It will denote the very source and occasion of empty display, which, though it holds out an imposing aspect to the eyes of men, is of no estimation in the sight of God. For, as Jeremiah (5:3) tells us that the eyes of the Lord behold the truth, so they that believe in his word are instructed to maintain true godliness in such a manner as to cleave to righteousness with an honest and perfect heart; as in these words,

An now, O Israel, what doth the Lord require from thee, but that thou shouldst cleave to him with all thy heart, and with all thy soul? (Deuteronomy 10:12.)

On the other hand, the traditions of men, while they set aside spiritual worship, wear a temporary disguise, as if God could be imposed upon by such deceptions; for to whatever extent outward ceremonies may be carried, they are, in the sight of God, nothing more than childish trifles, unless so far as they assist us in the exercise of true piety.

We now perceive the reason why hypocrisy was viewed by Luke as equivalent to doctrines invented by men, and why he included under this name the leavens of men, which only puff up, and in the sight of God contain nothing solid, and which even draw aside the minds of men from the right study of piety to empty and insignificant ceremonies. But it will be better to abide by the narrative of Matthew, which is more copious. The disciples, after having been reproved by our Lord, came at length to understand that he had charged them to be on their guard against certain doctrine. It was plainly, therefore, the intention of Christ to fortify them against prevailing abuses, by which they were attacked on all sides. The Pharisees and Sadducees were expressly named, because those two sects maintained at that time a tyrannical sway in the Church, and held opinions so utterly subversive of the doctrine of the Law and the Prophets, that almost nothing remained pure and entire.

But Herod did not in any way profess to teach; and a question arises, why does Mark class him with false teachers? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and Of The Leaven Of Herod. I reply: he was half a Jew, was mean and treacherous, and availed himself of every contrivance that was within his reach to draw the people to his side; for it is customary with all apostates to contrive some mixture, for the purpose of establishing a new religion by which the former may be abolished. It was because he was laboring craftily to subvert the principles of true and ancient piety, and thus to give currency to a religion that would be exceedingly adapted to his tyranny, or rather because he was endeavoring to introduce some new form of Judaism, that our Lord most properly charged them to beware of his leaven. From the temple of God the scribes disseminated their errors, and the court of Herod was another workshop of Satan, in which errors of a different kind were manufactured.

Thus in our own day we find that not only from Popish temples, and from the dens of sophists and monks, does Antichrist vomit out her impostures, but that there is a Theology of the Court, which lends its aid to prop up the throne of Antichrist, so that no stratagem is left untried. But as Christ opposed the evils which then prevailed, and as he aroused the minds of his followers to guard against those which were the most dangerous, let us learn from his example to make a prudent inquiry what are the abuses that may now do us injury. Sooner shall water mix with fire than any man shall succeed in reconciling the inventions of the Pope with the Gospel. Whoever desires to become honestly a disciple of Christ, must be careful to keep his mind pure from those leavens; and if he has already imbibed them, he must labor to purify himself till none of their polluting effects remain. There are restless men, on the other hand, who have endeavored in various ways to corrupt sound doctrine, and, in guarding also against such impostures, believers must maintain a strict watch, that they may keep a perpetual Passover

with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth,
(1 Corinthians 5:8.)

And as on every hand there now rages an impiety like that of Lucian, 433433     “L’mpiete des Lucianistes et des Atheistes;” — “the impiety of the Lucianists and Atheists.” Lucian, a celebrated Greek writer, of the second century of the Christian era, author of Dialogues of the Dead, is here alluded to as the type of scoffers and Atheists. His subject naturally led him to treat with sportive humor the solenmities of death and the future judgment; and the wit and elegance of his pen, had it been guided by ordinary caution, would have been readily — far too readily — sustained as an apology for the tone of his work. But in defiance of the ordinary feelings of mankind, he attacked so fearlessly the most sacred truths, and offended the ear of modesty by such indecent allusions, that his character as a man has been stamped with infamy. Modern times have scarcely produced so daring an infidel, with the exception perhaps of Voltaire, who took no pains to conceal his intense hatred of Christianity and of good men. Had he appeared earlier, his name might perhaps have been substituted for that of Lucian, as the representative of his class. — Ed. a most pernicious leaven, or rather a worse than deadly poison, let them exercise this very needful caution, and apply to it all their senses.

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