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derstand them, or they would have seen that Jesus, in what He was now doing, was carrying out the plans of God, his Father. He bade them go and learn what was meant by the word of God in the prophet Hosea, "I will have mercy and not sacrifice.” (Hosea vi. 6.)
If men had not been sinners needing mercy, they would have needed no Saviour. Had they been righteous, He would have remained in his kingdom of heaven ; but because they were sinners He came to save them and to call them to repentance. How glad, and yet how humble, must the poor publicans have felt when they heard these words of the Lord Jesus. The scribes and pharisees despised them, and would have thought it a shame even to speak with them, but He whose words and whose life were so holy that none could find one fault against him, He who called himself the Son of God, and who did wonders that none but God could do, sat down among them as their friend. And the reason He gave for doing this was, their sin, that He might “call them to repentance."
His power had changed the heart of Matthew, and we cannot doubt, that some among the many who had followed him to Matthew's house, and sat with him there to hear him, were brought to see that their true riches lay in the Gospel He taught them.
The answer of Jesus to the pharisees, “ They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick : I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance," shall to the end of the world speak peace to many a wounded heart. When the sinner awakens to a sense of his sin, then comes the fearful thought, that he is too bad to be forgiven. He feels his unworthiness; he feels that he is not fit for the kingdom of heaven, and the anguish of his heart, instead of bringing him to God for pardon, drives him, like Adam, to hide himself from Him. (Gen. iii. 7–10. It is not unbelief, it is terror caused by the sense of sin. He knows that God can forgive him, but again
and again rises the terrible question, How can I expect that He will. I have sinned so often against Him, I deserve to be cast off by Him for ever. Then the terrible for ever rises up before him in its awful truth, and the poor soul is so tossed with fear, that hope has no power to shine through the darkness of his mind. The kind voice of the Saviour at last is heard. The Lord Jesus speaks to him in the words we have read. He tells him that it is because of him, and of those like him, that He came into the world. Had he been righteous, he would not have needed a Saviour. It is because his sin is as great as he feels it to be, (and for that very reason, that Jesus has pity upon him, and will give him pardon and peace in leading him to repentance. He is sick from sin, and he is sick of sin, therefore Christ will heal him. He is a sinner, therefore Christ has come to call him to repentance. Is there one in this case, who now reads these pages, let him believe that the physician of his soul is come to him, and that from this time, if he will, the sickness of his soul will be taken away from him, and life everlasting will be given him, for Christ is come to call him to a true repentance.
Prayer. Oh! my Saviour, Physician of my soul, in pity look upon me. Heal me and I shall live. Sad are the pains of the body and hard to bear, but they are nothing to the grief of sin, when once the heart and conscience are awakened to know how evil and how bitter a thing it is to have wilfully sinned against so good a God. Ogrant me pardon now, grant me repentance unto life, that when the pains of death shall come upon me, they shall find my soul freed from the disease of sin. Blessed be thy name, my Saviour ; thou art not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance, or I had never heard thy voice, for I am a sinner from my birth. I am weary and heavyladen with my sin. O take away the burthen, and give health to my soul, that I may serve thee with every power of the mind and of the body thou hast given me. Amen.
MATT. ix. 16, 17.
MARK II. 21, 22. LUKE. V. 36–39.
MARK ii. 18—20. “ And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast : and they come (to Jesus) and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not ? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bride-chamber fast while the bridegroom is with them ? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.”
The religion of the Pharisees, as you have heard before, was chiefly an outward show. They fasted often, and many of them did so, putting on a sad countenance, that they might be seen of men. (Matt. vi. 16) They could not believe in the holiness of the Lord Jesus, when they saw Him willing to sit down with His disciples to the feast that had been made in honour of Him in the house of Matthew the publican. It was true that the answer Jesus had given them, when they found fault with Him for going into the house of a publican at all, could not be spoken against; but why did He sit down to the feast he had made ? Did not He and his disciples fast? The whole manner of life and of teaching of the Lord Jesus was so different from their's, that they could not understand Him; nor shall we, while, like the Pharisees, we think well of ourselves, and are only willing to take as much of the religion of Jesus as suits our own ideas. And the disciples of John came also to
Him with the same question: "Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but thy disciples fast not ?” They indeed had
? cause to mourn. Their Master was in prison, his life hanging,
. as it were, by a thread, for he had offended a tyrant king and his wicked wife by his bold reproofs, and each day they feared would be his last. They had cause to be of a sad countenance. And they knew not yet the glad tidings of the gospel of peace which Jesus had brought down from heaven. They only knew the repentance for sin their master John had taught them. They had cause to fast much and often. But with the disciples of Jesus it was not so. He was with them. This was the time of their joy. The days would soon come when they must mourn and fast and weep. A time of sorrow was at hand. Their Lord would be taken from them. Fear and pains and grief would fall upon them, then would they fast. But these days were not yet.
Was it likely that the guests at a wedding should be mournful? They were the friends of the Bridegroom, and while with him they must rejoice and be glad. If indeed he were taken away, then all their feelings would be changed, and their gladness would be turned into grief. So was it, so would it be with the disciples of the Lord. And Christ is the Bridegroom of his Church, and his Church is, all those who love him and obey him. Let us be first sure that we are of those, and then with glad and thankful hearts we may enjoy the days of sun-bright happiness He sometimes gives. They will not last too long. He knows his children's need, and the days will come when they must fast. Sorrow, and sickness, and death enter every dwelling, then do we forget our daily food, and our eyes can take no rest. We suffer in the sufferings of those we love, and in our own. But as it was with the disciples of old, so is it with the children of God now. They were dear to their Lord in their sorrow at the end of his ministry, as they had been at the beginning; and when our time of mourning comes, it is but that we are nearer the end.
The same Lord who smiled upon our days of joy, clasps us closer to his bosom in our time of grief; and though we see him not, he is surely carrying us, “ through much tribulation," to that happy land where no tears are ever shed, for sorrow is passed away with sin for ever. (Rev. vii. 9–17.)
The Lord Jesus did more than answer the question put to him by the disciples of John and the Pharisees. He shewed them that the religion he was come to teach and to give needed no help to make it perfect. It was complete in itself.
The old law given to the Jews was, like the garment worn by their High Priest, full of types and figures. (Exodus xxxix. 131 ; xl. 12–15.) It had served its time-its use was at an end.
The gospel of peace which was now to take its place, was a robe of righteousness that needed nothing to be added unto it. To all who received him the Saviour gave it, pure, white, and stainless; they need nothing more. To join the two together would be worse than useless ; both would be spoiled.
LUKE v. 36. “And therefore he spake also a parable unto them ; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, (that is, if they do) then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old.”
Our Lord wished to shew them that the trials his Christian disciples would be called to meet were very great, without adding to them the burthens of the Jewish law. He knew their weakness, and he would spare them all needless trial. Therefore He said
Verses 37, 38. “And no man putteth new wine into old bottles ; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles ; and both are preserved. They would not themselves put “new wine into old (lea