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Luke 7:31-35---"And the Lord said, Whereunto, then, shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like? They are like unto children sitting in the market-place, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept. For John the Baptist came neither eating bread, nor drinking wine; and ye say he hath a devil! The Son of Man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! But wisdom is justified of all her children."
It would seem, as if God designed, in his dealings with men, to leave them without excuse. He uses such a variety of instrumentality to reclaim and save them, that it appears as if he meant to try every possible means of winning them away from death, that he may give them eternal life.
John the Baptist, was an austere man: he seems to have had very little intercourse with the people, except in his public capacity as a prophet. His message seems to have been that of reproof and rebuke in a high degree. His diet was locusts and wild honey; and he seems to have practised a high degree of austerity, in all his habits of living. He did not visit Jerusalem as a public teacher, but continued in the wildest parts of Judea, to which places the people flocked, to listen to his instruction. His habits of life; his style of preaching; his abstaining in a great measure from intercourse with the people; led his enemies to say, that he had a bad spirit; and that so far he was from being a good man he was possessed with the devil.
After the Scribes and Pharisees had declined receiving his doctrine, under the pretense that he had a devil: Jesus Christ began his public, and in his habits of life, and intercourse with the people, differed widely from John the Baptist. Instead of confining himself to the wilderness of Judea, he visited most of the principle places, and especially spent considerable time at Jerusalem as a public teacher. He was affable in his demeanor; mingled with great ease, and holy civility, with almost all classes of persons, for the purpose of instructing them in the great doctrines of salvation. He did not hesitate to comply with the invitations of the Pharisees, and great men of the nation to dine with them; and on all occasions was forward in administering such reproof, and instruction, as was suited to the circumstances and characters of those with whom he associated. But when the Pharisees listened to his doctrines, they were filled with indignation, and seized hold of the easy and gentlemanly manner in which he accommodated himself to all classes of people that he might give them instruction, and objected to him that he was a gluttonous man, a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. They objected to John, that he was morose and sour, that he had a denunciatory spirit, and was therefore possessed with the devil: and to Christ they objected, that he was on the opposite extreme; that he too was affable and familiar with all classes of people: that he was not only a gluttonous man, and a win-bibber; but that he was the friend of publicans and sinners. It was this inconsistency in them, that drew forth from Christ the words of the text. An evident allusion is made, in the words of the text, to Eastern customs; to their seasons of festivity and dancing on the one hand; and to their loud lamentation and mournings, on funeral occasions, on the other. It is common, as every one knows, for little children to copy, in their plays, those things which they see in adult persons. When they witness seasons of festivity, piping, and dancing, they get something that will answer as an instrument of music, and go forth piping and dancing, in imitation of what they have seen. So on the other hand, when they have witnessed funeral occasions, on which, mourning men and women, as is common in the East; by their loud wailings, have excited great lamentations among the spectators; they too, have attempted to copy this also. The conduct of the Scribes and Pharisees is compared to children, who sit in the marketplaces, and complain of their little playfellows as morose and sour, and not willing to play with them, play what they would. When they imitated festivity and dancing, their playfellows were solemn and reserved, and did not seem disposed to merriment. And when they attempted to play something that was more agreeable to their humor, and mourned and wailed unto them as if at a funeral, then they were disposed to be merry. We have piped unto you (say they), and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept. And when Christ had thus represented the testy conduct of these children, he presses his hearers with the application, "for John the Baptist came neither eating bread, nor drinking wine, and ye say he hath a devil. The Son of Man is come, eating and drinking, and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! But wisdom is justified of all her children."
Some people are apt to imagine that it is a misrepresentation of God's character that creates so much opposition to him in this world. Sometimes, it is true, that his character is greatly misrepresented, and when his character is thus misrepresented the consciences of men are opposed to him; but they are no better pleased when his character is truly represented; for then, their hearts are opposed to him.
It is matter of fact, that only needs to be stated, to be admitted, that upon the subject of religion, the heart and the conscience of unrepentant sinners, are opposed to each other. That which their hearts love, their consciences condemn, and that which their consciences approve, their hearts hate. Their consciences approve the character of God, as it is; but to this character their hearts are utterly opposed, as I have shown when treating upon the subject of total depravity, in No. 5 of this series. If the character of God should be so altered, as to conciliate and please their wicked heart; their conscience would condemn it.
To the holiness of God their hearts are bitterly opposed. To deny this is as absurd as it is false. To maintain that an unrepentant heart is not opposed to holiness, is the same as to maintain that an unrepentant heart is not unrepentant. Impenitence is the love of sin. But sin and holiness are direct opposites. To say then, that an unrepentant heart is not opposed to holiness, is to say that opposites are not opposites. God is infinitely holy, and therefore the unrepentant heart is wholly opposed to him. But suppose he was infinitely sinful; would sinners be better pleased with him than they are at present? No. They would then make war upon him because he was so wicked. Their consciences would then condemn him, and although their hearts would be conciliated, their conscience, and their better judgment would be utterly opposed to him. Men are so constituted, that they cannot approve the character of a wicked being. No man ever approved of the character of the devil: and wicked men are opposed to both God and the devil, for opposite reasons. They hate God with their hearts because he is so holy; and in their consciencescondemn the devil, because he is so wicked. Now suppose you place the character of God at any point between the two extremes of infinite holiness and infinite sinfulness; and sinners would not, upon the whole, be better pleased with him than they are now. In just as far as he was holy, their hearts would hate him. In just as far as he was wicked, their consciences would condemn him. So that he does not please them as he is, nor would he please them if he should change.
If they liked his mercy with its conditions, they would accept forgiveness; and would no longer be unrepentant sinners. This is matter of fact. But if he were unmerciful, then they would certainly be opposed to him.
Again. They do not like the precept of his law, as it is, nor would they approve of it if it were altered. When they behold its perfection, their hearts rise up against it. But if it were imperfect, and allowed of some degree of sin, their consciences would condemn it. Let the precept of the law remain as it is, or alter it as you will; and sinners are and will be displeased. The law now requires perfect holiness; and for this reason the sinner's heart is entirely opposed to it. But suppose it required entire sinfulness; then his conscience would utterly condemn it. Let it be of a mixed character, and require some holiness, and some sin; and in as far as it requires holiness, their heart would hate it; and in as far as it required sin, their conscience would condemn it. So upon the whole, they would be as far from being satisfied, as they are now.
Again. Sinners do not like the penalty of the lawas it is; nor would they approve of it, if it were altered. The heart of sinners rises into most outrageous rebellion, when the penalty of eternal death is held out to their view. But if the penalty were less, their consciences would condemn it. Then they would say the penalty was not equal to the importance of the precept. That as the importance of the precept was infinite; it is a plain matter of common sense that the penalty is infinite. That God was under an obligation in justice, to apportion the penalty to the importance of the precept. Furthermore, they would say that God had not done all the nature of the case admitted, to prevent the commission of sin. That he had not presented the highest motives to obedience, that could be presented; nor such motives as the nature of the case demanded: that therefore he was deficient in benevolence, and even wanting in common honesty and justice. Now, place the penalty of this law at any point between eternal death and no penalty at all, and the sinner is not satisfied.
If you make it less than eternal death, you offend his conscience; and if you let it remain as it is, you offend his heart.
Again. Sinners do not like the Gospel as it is, nor would they be better satisfied, if it were altered.
1st. They do not like the rule of conduct which it prescribes, now would they be satisfied if it prescribed any other rule. It requires that men should be holy, as God is holy: and requires the same strictness and perfection, as does the moral law. But this is a great offence to their hearts. Suppose it prescribed a different rule of conduct, and lowered its claim as to suit the sinful inclinations of men; then their consciences would oppose it.
What, they would say, is the Gospel to repeal the moral law? Does it make Christ the minister of sin? Is it arrayed against the government of God, and does it permit rebellion against his throne? What sort of Gospel is this? To this their consciences would entirely object.