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On Christ's Authority as a Teacher.
MATTHEW vii. 28, 29,
And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended
these Sayings, the People were astonished at his Doctrine. For he taught them as one having Authority, and not as the Scribes.
AVING in some former Dif
Teaching, I now come to consider that which giveth Weight to all the rest, and in which he was eminently superior to all others that ever appeared under the Character of Teachers, Vol. IV.
viz. the Divine Authority with he
which taught. This was so remarkable, that the People could not help observing the signal Difference there was in this Respect between him and the Scribes, who were
Teachers of the greatest Reputation among them. It was especially after Jesus had finished his admirable Sermon on the Mount, that the
People made this Reflection. They were astonished at bis Doctrine; at it's superior Purity and Excellency, co far tranfcending any thing they had ever heard before ; and they were also astonished at the Authority and commanding Power with which he spoke. He taught them as one having Authority, and not as the Scribes. The Scribes were the principal authorized Teachers among them. They had all the Authority which the chief Priests and Elders, the Heads of the Jewish Church and Nation, were able to give them. But the Authority Christ claimed was of a far higher Kind. He did not found his Doctrine, as the Scribes were wont to do, upon the Authority of their ancient Doctors and great Masters of Tradition. On the con. trary, having thewn in several Instances what were their Glosses in the Interpretation of the Law, he with great
Solemnity declared against their Decisions in several Matters of no small Importance; to which
he opposed his own Determinations, in a Manner which plainly shewed, that he taught as having an Authority superior to theirs, an Authority not derived merely from Men, but from above. Thus the People understood it, and this seems to be what they principally intended in saying, that He taught as one having Authority, and not as the Şcribes; i. e. as one having an extraordinary Divine Authority and Commiffion, which was what the Scribes, who were not Prophets, nor had the Power of working Miracles, could not pretend to.
But it may also farther signify, that he taught with a wonderful Gravity and Dignity, with a Power and Energy that struck and pénétrated the Soul ; whereas the Scribes taught in a cold, formal, lifeless Way, that made little Impression upon the Heart. That Character given of the Word of God, Heb. iv. 12, might well be applied to our Saviour's Teaching; The Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged Sword, piercing even to the Dividing asunder of Soul and Spirit, and of the Joints and Marrow, and is a Difcerner of the Thoughts and Intents of the Heart. And this particularly appeared in the great Effects his Preaching had even upon many of those that were called Publicans and SinÄers, in bringing them to a fincere Re
pentance. Another Thing here intended may be, that in his Teaching he was above being influenced by the Fear of Men, or Respect of Persons. What the Pharisees and Herodians faid to him, though with a Design of infnaring him, was literally true : Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the Way of God in Truth, neia ther carest thou for any Man, for thou regardest not the Person of Man. Matt. xxii. 16. So the People elsewhere observe, that he spake boldly, John vii. 26, with a noble Liberty and Confidence, as knowing his own Divine Dignity and Authority.
Accordingly, notwithstanding all the Prejudices conceived against him on the Account of the Meanness of his Appearance, and the carnal Notions which then prevailed of the Messiah and his Kingdom, notwithstanding the Opposition made to him by the chief Priests and Heads of the Jewish Nation, yet there were great Numbers that believed in him; and not only among the People, but even among the chief Rulers too, though they were deterred from openly profeffing it. Yohn xii. 42. And though their Faith was for a While
very much shaken, and almost extinguished by his Crucifixion; yet, after his Resurrection, and the extraordinary Effusion of the Holy Ghost, which helped to remove the Pre
judices arising from his Sufferings and Death, the vast and sudden Increase of the Converts to Christianity at Jerusalem was no doubt very much owing to their having been prepared for it by our Saviour's own admirable Instructions and Miracles, during the Course of his personal Ministry:
This may suffice to Thew what it is that is probably intended here, when the People speak of Christ's Teaching with Authority, and not as the Scribes. But I shall now treat the Subject in a larger Extent, and shall more fully and distinãtly consider the Authority with which our Lord spake, and 'thew that in this he is vastly superior to all other Teachers.
First, He taught as a Prophet immediately sent and commissioned by God; and on this Account must needs have an Authority much superior to that of any uninspired human Teacher. For, let them be never so learned and knowing, never so sincere and impartial Lovers of Truth, they are liable to Mistake ; especially in Things that relate to the Divine Adminiftrations, the Laws and Counsels of God, the Rewards it will please him to confer, and the Punishments he will inflict, and his Acts of Grace and Favour, which depend upon the free Determinations of his all-comprehending Wisdom, and of which,