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PARABLE XI. " A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax, shall be not quench, till he send forth judgment uato victory."
Mat, xii. 20. St. Matthew having given an account of some precautions which Christ made use of in order that the people at large might not know him, quotes the above passage from Isaiah, as being fulfilled by Christ. See Isaiah xlii. 1, &c.
The house of Israel is here represented by the similitude of a bruised reed, by which is meant the low condition in which Christ found it when he
The prophet looked forward from his day, and beholding the house of Israel in a low state of servitude, represented it by a bruised reed, and then prophecies of the Messiah and his coming, and said he would not break what little strength it retained, which was then only in the sceptre of Judah, or staff, or reed of his tribeship, until he had fulfilled the law and made it honorable, which I understand by his sending forth judgment unto victory. The continuance of Judah's sceptre until the coming of Shiloh, was spoken of by Jacob, see Gen. xlix. 10. It was to continue until Shiloh should come, after which it was broken: Observe, the bruised reed was not to be broken, nor the smoking flax quenched, until judgment was sent forth unto victory, which intimates that the reed would then be broken and the flax quenched. Flax is extremely combustible, and quickly consumed by fire, and as it smokes a little after the fire has passed it, before it is entirely gone, so the house of Israel is represented as almost the whole of its strength exhausted, and dying like the wick of a candle after the blaze is extinguished, but that it
should not be entirely quenched until righteousness should gain the victory over sin; then was Judah's sceptre broken, and the light, strength and glory of the legal dispensation vanished forever,
ILLUSTRATION. It is remarkable that notwithstanding the low condition of the Jews, and their servitude under the Roman yoke, yet they were preserved, and retained their ecclesiastical order until they had an opportunity to exercise that power in fulfilling the scripture prophecies concerning the Messiah. Had the sceptre departed from Judah, or a lawgiver from between his feet, before Shiloh come, and that people had been broken up and dispersed as they were immediately afterwards, they would not have been in a situation to fulfil all that the prophets had written concerning Christ ; they could not have said, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die.
If we duly consider that all the other tribes of the children of Israel had become extinct before the coming of Shiloh, and even that of Judah was reduced to contemptible weakness, yet preserved for the fulfilment of Jacob's prophecy, and the many other prophecies concerning the Messiah, it must operate as a very forcible argument in favor of the divinity of those scriptures which were so remarkably fulfilled. What power of human wisdom, can we reasonably suppose, could discover to the dying patriarch that Judah would be the only surviving tribe, and that he would survive until the coming of Shiloh? If we
of Shiloh? If we attribute this to the sagacity of human wisdom, with a design to avoid the idea of divine inspiration, we only defeat
our object, by giving to human wisdom that prescience which amounts to as much as divine inspiration
PARABLE XII. " When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh
through dry places, seeking rest, and finding none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out : and wben he is come, he findeth it empty, swept and garnished. Then goech he, and taketh with himself -seven other spirits more wicked than hiasself, and they enter in and dwell there : and the last state of that man is worse tban ihe first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked geoeration."
MAT. xii, 43, 44, 45. Ist. Our Saviour in the above passage repre. sents the then present generation of the house of Israel by. a man who had an unclean spirit.
2d. He shows that the unclean spirit which they were possessed of, at his coming would seem to be cast out, but that seven evil spirits would succeed and stand in the room of one.
3d. He shows that, that generation would not find the rest which remaineth for the people of God, on account of their unbelief.
4th. He shows that they would enter into the old house of the law, or covenant of works, which they would find first empty, as Christ informed them that their house should be left unto them desolate, &c.
5th. Swept and garnished, that is, made ready for their entrance; as they were not acquainted with the gospel, they would attempt safety in the covenant of works, in which situation they are.
worse than before, seven times ; which circum. stance will be particularly described in notes on Luke xvi. last paragraph.
ILLUSTRATION. It is generally understood that the Saviour pointed to a future state of endless punishment, when he said, “ the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be unto this wicked generation.” This is supposing that Christ, at that time, judged and condemned that generation to a state of endless misery. Yet this same divine teacher says, “ For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” It is evident that if Christ condemned that generation in the sense above stated, he condemned it so as to render it impossible for him to do what God sent him to do, namely, to save, and not CONDEMN. The mistaké which has been made by supposing that the Saviour alluded to a future state of endless misery, in those passages where he speaks of the situation into which the Jews would be immediately brought, has given a general character to the preaching of the christian clergy, which is very different from the ministry of reconciliation. There is a passage in the 13th of St. Luke, which has been made frequent use of in the way of the above named mistake, and if it were not for the special demands of christian charity, it would be next to impossible to believe those sincere who so misapply that text. It reads as follows : “ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather
her brood under her wings, and ye would not ! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate :" At this colon it is customary to stop short, and apply the text to the eternal destruction of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, accompanying the application with an animadversion on the conduct of the Jews, by which they justly merited such punishment. However, the conclusion of the verse fully refutes such an application, and renders those who make the mistake as destitute of an excuse, at least, as the Jews were who denied Christ.
See the text: 6. And verily I say unto you, ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” This precious prophecy, because it contains a declaration of mercy to the blinded house of Israel, is as much neglected by teachers in general, as the Saviour was by those to whom this merciful prophecy was spoken. The prayer of our Saviour on the cross is a complete refutation of all the arguments which are made use of to prove the sins of the Jews, in rejecting Christ, UNPARDONABLE, as is. generally represented. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Who were those who knew not what they did ? See the answer in Acts xiii. 27, 28, 29. “ For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.”