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23. Seven Woes

Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: 3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, 6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. 8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. 11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. 14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. 15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. 16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! 17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? 18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. 19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? 20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. 21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. 22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon. 23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. 25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. 26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. 29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, 30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. 31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. 32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. 33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: 35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. 36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. 37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. 39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

34. Therefore, lo, I send to you. Luke introduces it in a still more emphatic manner, Wherefore also the Wisdom of God hath said; which some commentators explain thus: “I, who am the eternal Wisdom of God, declare this concerning you.” But I am more inclined to believe that, according to the ordinary custom of Scripture, God is here represented as speaking in the person of his Wisdom; so that the meaning is, “God foretold long ago, by the prophetic Spirit, what would happen with regard to you.” This sentence, I acknowledge, is nowhere to be found literally: but as God denounces the incorrigible obstinacy of that people in many places of Scripture, Christ draws up a kind of summary of them, and by this personification 111111     “En introduisant la Sapience de Dieu parlant;” — “by introducing the Wisdom of God as speaking.” expresses more clearly what was the judgment of God as to the incurable wickedness of that nation. For if those teachers would have no success, it might have appeared strange that Christ should have desired them to weary themselves to no purpose. Men argue thus: “God labors in vain, when he sends his word to the reprobate, who, he knows, will continue obstinate.” And hypocrites, as if it were sufficient of itself to have preachers of the heavenly doctrine continually with them, though they show themselves to be disobedient, entertain the conviction that God is reconciled and favorable to them, provided that the outward word be heard amongst them.

Thus the Jews fiercely boasted that, in comparison of other nations, they had always enjoyed the best prophets and teachers, and, as if they had deserved so great an honor, they considered this to be an undoubted proof of their own excellence. 112112     “Comme un certain tesmoignage qu’ils estoyent gens de bien;” — “as an undoubted proof that they were good people.” To put down this foolish boasting, Christ not only affirms that they do not excel other nations on the ground of having received from God distinguished prophets and expounders of his Wisdom, but maintains that this ilk requited favor is a greater reproach, and will bring upon them a heavier condemnation, because the purpose of God was different from what they supposed, namely, to render them more inexcusable, and to bring their wicked malice to the highest pitch; as if he had said, “Though prophets have been appointed to you by heaven in close succession, it is idly and foolishly that you claim this as an honor; for God had quite a different object in his secret judgment, which was, to lay open, by an uninterrupted succession of gracious invitations, your wicked obstinacy, and, on your being convicted of it, to involve the children in the same condemnation with the fathers.”

With regard to the words, the discourse as related by Matthew is defective, but its meaning must be supplied from the words of Luke. The mention of scribes and wise men along with prophets tends to magnify the grace of God; by which their ingratitude becomes more apparent, since, though God left nothing undone for their instruction, they made no proficiency. Instead of wise men and scribes, Luke mentions apostles, but the meaning is the same. This passage shows that God does not always bestow salvation on men when he sends his word to them, but that he sometimes intends to have it proclaimed to the reprobate, who, he knows, will continue obstinate, that it may be to them

the savior of death unto death, (2 Corinthians 2:16.)

The word of God, indeed, in itself and by its own nature, brings salvation, and invites all men indiscriminately to the hope of eternal life; but as all are not inwardly drawn, and as God does not pierce the ears of ally—in short, as they are not renewed to repentance or bent to obedience, those who reject the word of God render it, by their unbelief, deadly and destructive.

While God foresees that this will be the result, he purposely sends his prophets to them, that he may involve the reprobate in severer condemnation, as is more fully explained by Isaiah, (6:10.) This, I acknowledge, is very far from being agreeable to the reason of the flesh, as we see that unholy despisers of God seize on it as a plausible excuse for barking, that God, like some cruel tyrant, takes pleasure in inflicting more severe punishment on men whom, without any expectation of advantage, he knowingly and willingly hardens more and more. But by such examples God exercises the modesty of believers. Let us maintain such sobriety as to tremble and adore what exceeds our senses. Those who say, that God’s foreknowledge does not hinder unbelievers from being saved, foolishly make use of an idle defense for excusing God. I admit that the reprobate, in bringing death upon themselves, have no intention of doing what God foresaw would happen, and therefore that the fault of their perishing cannot be ascribed to His foreknowledge; but I assert that it is improper to employ this sophistry in defending the justice of God, because it may be immediately objected that it lies with God to make them repent, for the gift of faith and repentance is in his power.

We shall next be met by this objection, What is the reason why God, by a fixed and deliberate purpose, appoints the light of his word to blind men? When they have been devoted to eternal death, why is he not satisfied with their simple ruin? and why does he wish that they should perish twice or three times? There is nothing left for us but to ascribe glory to the judgments of God, by exclaiming with Paul, that they are a deep and unfathomable abyss, (Romans 11:33.) But it is asked, How does he declare that the prophecies will turn to the destruction of the Jews, while his adoption still continued to be in force towards that nation? I reply, As but a small portion embraced the word by faith for salvation, this passage relates to the greater number or the whole body; as Isaiah, after having predicted the general destruction of the nation, is commanded

to seal the law of God among the disciples, (Isaiah 8:16.)

Let us know then that, wherever the Scripture denounces eternal death against the Jews, it excepts a remnant, (Isaiah 1:9; Romans 11:5;) that is, those in whom the Lord preserves some seed on account of his free election


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