Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had happened in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
I. THAT GREAT INIQUITY MAY LOOK FOR SIGNAL PUNISHMENT AT THE HAND OF GOD. Jesus does not intimate that Tyre and Sidon suffered any more than they deserved, that Sodom had a retribution which was in the smallest degree out of proportion to its guilt. These cities deserved their doom; they sowed the wind, and reaped the whirlwind. That which happened to them was exactly what they might have expected; and it is just what such cities as they were may always look for. It does not require a desolating army or a miraculous storm to bring disastrous evil upon the head of shameful wrong. Without such particular instruments as these, the blow which slays and buries will certainly descend. If destruction comes not on the wings of one wind, it will come on those of another; whether we think of the vicious city or the profligate man, we may be sure that great guilt will, sooner or later, work out the downfall and extinction of the evil-doer. By human history and the record of the lives of men, as well as by the sacred page, "the wrath of God is revealed against all unrighteousness of men;" they cannot and will not "escape the judgment of God."
II. THAT NEITHER SWIFTNESS NOR APPARENT SEVERITY IN PUNISHMENT IS A SURE CRITERION OF THE MAGNITUDE OF THE CRIME. Destruction had come down suddenly and terribly on Sodom; Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida were still existing, and were still rejoicing in outward prosperity. Was the ancient city so much guiltier in God's sight than the (then) modern towns of Galilee? No, replied the great Teacher. Had these ruined cities of a former age enjoyed such privileges as the citizens of his own time were possessing but neglecting, they would have repented and would have been spared. We must take care how we argue from sudden and severe evils to the relative guiltiness of the sufferers. These evils may clearly indicate wrong; they may (though in some cases they do not) indicate very great wrong-doing; but they do not prove that those on whom they descend are more guilty than others who are spared.
1. God may think well, in one case, to manifest his holiness by severe visitation, and in another case to illustrate his patience by delaying long the stroke of justice.
2. God may punish one city (or man) by physical and visible inflictions; he may chastise another by letting his moral laws do their appointed work, and bring down the men themselves to that low spiritual estate which is the saddest and direst consequence of sin.
III. THAT PRIVILEGE IS VERY PRECIOUS, BUT IT IS ALSO VERY PERILOUS. Capernaum was "exalted to heaven," raised very high indeed in privilege. There the Son of God abode; there he wrought his mightiest works; there he lived his holy, patient, loving life; there he spake his deep, broad, ever-living truths; there God was manifested in power and grace. It was favored above all cities in the height of its spiritual privileges. But it knew not the day of its visitation; it drew not nigh in reverence to its Lord; it rejected his doctrine; it remained afar off from God and heavenly wisdom. And it incurred thereby the Savior's strong condemnation; it accumulated guilt, and laid up for itself wrath against the day of wrath; it was "thrust down to hell" in reproach and retribution. We learn, more particularly:
1. That humility of spirit, rather than reproachfulness of tone, becomes us.
2. That the children of special privilege have great reason for devout heart-searching, lest they should find themselves the heirs of Divine condemnation. - C.
Woe unto thee.
I. The first conclusion to be drawn from the text thus explained relates to the future condition of those millions of mankind who depart this life in ignorance of a Saviour's name. The sacrifice of Christ made atonement for the whole race of mankind. And though so many millions are ignorant of His name, yet in some of them is discerned a spirit which would enable them to have repented at His preaching. By that spirit it may be hereafter determined whether or no the merits of Jesus Christ are imparted for the salvation of their souls.
II. Secondly, we may learn, from this view of the text, the probability of our being greatly mistaken in our views of the future judgment.
III. And here, thirdly, it may be observed, that mankind are too ready to draw hasty conclusions, from anything which they can interpret as a manifest interference of Divine Providence for the punishment of sin.
IV. Such, too, let us in the last place remember, is the sentence recorded against every one of us ourselves, if we know these things and do them not; if we acknowledge these mighty works and yet repent not. Let us not then be deceived by the blessings of outward prosperity. They form part of our trial.
(C. Girdlestone, M. A.)I. I observe from this discourse of our Saviour that miracles are of great force and efficacy to bring men to repentance.
II. I observe, likewise, from our Saviour's discourse, that God is not always obliged to work miracles for the conversion of sinners.
III. I observe farther, from our Saviour's discourse, that the external means of repentance which God affords to men, do suppose an inward grace of God accompanying them, sufficiently enabling me, to repent, if it be not their own fault; I say, a sufficient grace of God accompanying the outward means of repentance, till, by our wilful and obstinate neglect and resistance, and opposition of this grace, we provoke God to withdraw it from the means, or else to withdraw both the grace and the means from us: otherwise impenitence, after such external means afforded, would be no new and special fault.
IV. I observe from this discourse of our Saviour's, that an irresistible degree of grace is not necessary to repentance, nor commonly afforded to those who do repent.
V. I observe from the main scope of our Saviour's discourse, that the sins and impenitence of men receive their aggravation, and consequently shall have their punishment proportionable, to the opportunities and means of repentance which those persons have enjoyed and neglected. For what is here said of miracles, is by equality of reason likewise true of all other advantages and means of repentance and salvation.
VI. Sixth and last observation, and which naturally follows from the former, is this: that the case of those who are impenitent under the gospel is of all others the most dangerous, and their damnation shall be heaviest and most severe.
(Archbishop Tillotson.)A.D. 331-420), Chorazin had long been deserted. They have stood tenantless for at least 1,500 years, and may well have been standing in the days when our Lord from time to time wandered among them, doing those mighty works which were yet, as at Bethsaida and Capernaum, ineffectual to bring the population to thoughtfulness and repentance. It helps one to realize better the daily life of our Saviour, to see in what poor barren spots He laboured; following the lost sheep of the house of Israel to such a forbidding wilderness.
(C. Geikie, D. D.)
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