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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. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, 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. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
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 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. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.
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! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. 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.
May we ever remember how necessary it is that our righteousness should exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, if we desire to enter into the kingdom of heaven! (Matt. v. 20.) May our zeal be employed on the great essentials of religion, justice, mercy, and fidelity, and not be laid out merely or chiefly on the circumstantials of it!
May we be concerned about the purity of our hearts, and not merely attend to the decency of our external behaviour! May we be, not like painted sepulchres, fair and beautiful without, and full of all uncleanness within; but rather like the vessel laid up before the Lord, whose outside shone with polished gold, while within it was replenished with heavenly manna! (Heb. ix. 4.)
How many, like these Pharisees, condemn persecution, and yet themselves are chargeable with the guilt of it! May that never be our character, lest we be judged out of our own mouths, and lest we thereby fill up the measure of our iniquities!
Behold the repeated tenderness of our compassionate Redeemer even towards that guilty city that killed the prophets, and stoned the messengers of God! He would with the gentlest and most solicitous care have gathered them, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings! Thus does he still call and invite perishing sinners. O that the obstinacy of their own perverse and rebellious wills may not finally withstand all the overtures of his grace; lest eternal desolation be their portion, and they in vain wish for the repetition of those calls which they once so wantonly despised!
MATTHEW XXIV. 1-14. MARK XIII. 1-13.
AND Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him to shew him the buildings of the temple; and some spake, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts; and one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering said unto him, See ye not all these things? these great buildings? Verily I say unto you, as for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, the disciples Peter and James and John and Andrew came unto him privately, and asked him, saying, Master, but tell us, when shall
these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near; and shall deceive many: go ye not therefore after them. And ye shall hear of wars, and rumours of wars. And when ye shall hear of wars, and rumours of wars, and commotions, see that ye be not terrified, and troubled: for all these things must first come to pass; but the end shall not be yet. Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and great earthquakes shall be in divers places; and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and troubles, and fearful sights; and great signs shall there be from heaven; all these are the beginnings of sorrows. But take heed to yourselves; for before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, and deliver you up to councils, and to the synagogues, and into prisons, to be afflicted; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my name's sake; and they shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.-And it shall turn to you for a testimony against them. But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, settle it therefore in your hearts, and take no thought before-hand what he shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.
And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents,
and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. But there shall not a hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end
The whole of this prophecy most evidently shews us how vain and dangerous it is to trust in external privileges, and to cry out, as these foolish and wretched Jews did, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are these buildings; when of this stately and magnificent structure, within less than half a century after it was finished, not one stone was left on another undemolished.
So particular a prediction, when compared with the event, must surely confirm our faith in Christ, as the great Prophet which was to come into the world. And we shall see reason to admire the wisdom and goodness of Divine Providence in giving us, almost by a miraculous preservation of the author, such a commentary on this prophecy as is delivered down to us in the works of Josephus, the Jewish historian, which throw a much stronger light upon it than if they had been written by a Christian on purpose to illustrate it.
Let us bless God that our own eyes have not seen such desolations and ruins, such commotions in the natural and moral world, such dissentions, in civil life, such persecutions and hatreds amongst the nearest relatives, under the pretence of propagating religion; which, however propagated, is nothing without that love which is so often made the first victim to it.
Yet too plainly do we see, in one form or another, iniquity abounding and the love of many waxing cold. Let us endeavour to revive on our own hearts a deep and lasting impression of Divine things: and remember, whenever we are tempted to let go our integrity, that it is he alone who endures to the end that shall be saved.
Whatever our trials are, let us cheerfully confide in the protection of Divine Providence; nor let us despair of those continued influences of the blessed Spirit which may animate us to the most difficult services, and support us under the
most painful sufferings. Let us therefore in patience possess our own souls, and maintain that composure and steadiness of spirit, as those that know how much more valuable it is than any enjoyment which can be taken away, or any temporal interest which can be brought into question.
MATT. XXIV. 15-28. MARK XIII. 14-23.
AND when ye therefore shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh, that is, the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto; and let him which is on the house-top not come down into the house, neither enter therein to take any thing out of his house; and let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath-day. For in those days shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, no, nor ever shall be. For there shall be great distress in the land, affliction and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And except that the Lord had shortened those days, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, those days shall be shortened. And then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is