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Matt 23:37 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sylvester Hassell   



“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her-wings, and ye would not!”

Brother J. J. Pickrell, of Good Hope, Ga., requests my views of this passage of scripture, and a statement of what I believe to be its application in the present age of the world.

In the beginning of the present century it was the custom of Baptist Churches to present their pastors with a copy of John Gill’s exposition of the scriptures and thus help preserve them from ignorant and Armenian perversions of the written word. Unfortunately, that most valuable exposition of the Inspired Volume ­is out of print; and the rapidly increasing down-grade tendency of the present age in religious belief does not call for any other edition of this soundest, ablest and richest of all the expositions of the scriptures. Any explanation of any text by a man of grace and information is of value; and there is not an article of dif­ference, in principle, between reading the explanation in a book or a periodical and hearing it from a person. The Lord has raised up teachers in His Church, and we do well to hear them. (Eph. iv. 8--16.) Of course the Written Word is the touchstone of all exposition and all experience.

I have never seen in any ether book or in any peri­odical, nor have I ever heard from any human, being, so accurate and satisfactory an explanation of the pro­found and intricate text referred to by Brother Pickrell as that given by John Gill, and I therefore reproduce his exposition:

“Jerusalem was the metropolis of Judea, the seat of the kings of Judah, yea the city of the Great King; the place of divine worship, once the holy and faithful city, the joy of the whole earth; wherefore it, was strange that the following things should be said of it. The word is repeated to show our Lord’s affection and concern for that city, as well as to upbraid it with its name, dignity and privileges; and it designs not the buildings of the city, but the inhabitants of it; and these not all, but the rulers and governors of it, civil and ecclesiastical, especially the great Sanhedrin, which was held in it, to whom best belong the descriptive charac­ters of killing the prophets, and stoning them that were sent by God unto them; since it belonged to them to take cognizance of such as called themselves prophets, and examine and judge them, and, if false, to condemn them; hence that saying of Christ, (Luke xiii, 33) which goes before the same words as here, “it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem”’ and these rulers are manifestly distinguished from their children, it being usual to call such as were heads of the people, either m a civil or ecclesiastical sense, fathers, and their sub­jects and disciples children: besides, our Lord’s dis­course throughout the whole context is directed to the Scribes and Pharisees, the ecclesiastical guides of the people, and to whom the civil governors paid a special regard. “Thou that killest the prophets” that is, with the sword, with which the prophets, in Elijah’s time were slain by the children of Israel, (1 Kings xix, 10) and which was one of the capital punishments inflicted by the Jewish Sanhedrin; and also that which follows was another of them. And stonest them which are sent unto thee; as, particularly, Zachariah, the son of Je­hoiade or Barachias (2 Chron. xxiv, 20, 22,) before mentioned (Matt. xxiii, 35.) The Jews themselves are obliged to own that this character belongs to them; say they: ‘When the word of God shall come, who is His messenger? we will honor Him.’ Says, Rabbi Saul: ‘Did not the prophets come, and we killed them, and shed their blood, and how shall we receive His word? or how shall we believe? And a celebrated writer of theirs has on these words, this note: ‘they have killed Uriah, they have killed Zechariah.’ How often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings and ye would not! Christ here speaks as a man, and the minister of the circumcision, and expresses a human affection for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and a human wish and will for their tempo­ral good; which he very aptly signifies by the hen, which is a very affectionate creature to its young, which it endeavors to screen from danger by covering with its wings. So the Shekivah with the Jews, is called ‘the holy birds’ and that phrase, ‘to betake one’s self, or to come to trust under the wings of the Shekivah,’ is often used for to become a proselyte to the true religion and worship of God, as Jethro and Ruth the Moabitess did. An expression much like this is used by an apocryphal writer, (2 Esdras 1, 30.) “I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but now what shall I do unto you? I will cast you out from my face” It seems to be a simile much in use with that people. Our Lord is to be understood, not as of His divine will as God to gather the people of the Jews internally by His spirit and grace to Himself, for all whom Christ would gather in this sense were gathered notwithstanding all the opposition made by the rulers of the people; but of His human affection and will, as a man and a minister, together them to him ex­ternally, by and under the ministry of His word, to hear Him preach; so as that they might be brought to a conviction of and an assent unto Him as the Messiah; which, though it might fall short of faith in Him, would have been sufficient to have preserved them from temporal ruin, threatened to their city and temple in the following verse: (Behold! your house is left unto you desolate).  Instances of the human affection and will of Christ may be observed in Mark x,21, and Luke xix, 41, and xxii, 42. which will of His, though, not contrary to the divine will, but subordinate to it, was not always the same with it, nor always fulfilled whereas His divine will or His will, as God, is always fulfilled. “Who hath resisteth Hs  will?” this cannot be hindered and made void; He does whatsoever He pleases; and further, that this will of Christ to gather the Jews to Himself is to be understood of His human will, and not divine will, is manifest from hence, that this will was in Him and expressed by him at several certain times, by intervals, and therefore, he says how often would I have gathered thee ,etc., whereas the divine will is one continued, immovable and unchangeable will, is always the same and never begins or ceases to be, and to which such an expression (how often) is inapplicable; and therefore these words do not contra­dict the absolute and sovereign will of God in the dis­tinguishing acts of it, respecting the choice of some persons and the leaving of others. And it is to be ob­served, that the persons whom Christ would have gath­ered are not represented as being unwilling to be gathered, but their rulers were not willing that they should, and be made proselytes to Him and come under his wings. It is not said, how often would I hare gathered you, and ye would not; nor, I would have gathered Jerusalem and she would not; nor, I would have gathered thy children, and they would not, but how often I would I have gathered thy children, and ye would not; which observation alone is sufficient to de­stroy the argument founded on this passage in favor of free will. Had Christ expressed His desire to have gathered the heads of the people to Him, the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin, the civil and ecclesiastical rulers of the Jews, or had He signified how much He wished and earnestly sought after and attempted to gather Jerusalem, the children, the inhabitants of it in common and either of them would not, it would have caused some appearance of the doctrine of free will, and have seemed to have countenanced it, and have imputed the non-gathering of them to their own will; though, had it been said, they would not, instead of ye would not, it would only have furnished a most sad instance of the perverseness of the will of man, which often oppose his temporal as well as spiritual good, and would rather show it to be a slave of that which is evil, then free to that which is good and would be a proof of this, not in a single person only, but in a body of men. The opposition and resistance to the will of Christ were not made by the people, but by their governors. The common people seemed inclined to attend his ministry, as appears from the vast crowds which, at different times and places, followed Him; but the chief priests and rulers did all they could to hinder the collection of them to Him, and their belief in Him as the Messiah, by traducing His character, miracles and doctrines, and by menacing the people with curses and excommunications, making a law that whosoever confessed Him should be turned out of the synagogue. So that the plain meaning of the text is the same as that of verse 13 in Matt. xxiii, and consequently is no proof of men’s resisting the operation of the spirit and grace of God: but only shows what obstruction and discouragements were thrown in the way of attendance on the eternal ministry of the word. In order to set aside and overthrow the doctrines of grace in election and particular redemption and effectual calling, it should be proved that Christ, as God, would have gathered, not Jerusalem and the inhabitants of it only, but all mankind, even such as are not eternally saved, and that, in a spiritual, saving way to Himself; of which there is not the least intimation in the text; and in order to establish the resistability of the grace of God by the perverse will of man, so as to become of no effect, it should be shown that Christ would have savingly converted persons, and they would not be converted, and that he bestowed the same grace upon them that He bestows on others who are converted; whereas, the sum of this passage lies in these few words, that Christ, as man, out of a compassionate regard for the people of the Jews, to whom He was sent as the minister of the circumcision, would have gathered them together under His ministry, and have instructed them in the knowledge of Himself as the Messiah; which, if they had only notionally received, would have secured them, as chickens under the hen, from im­pending judgments, which afterwards fell upon them, but their governors, and not they, would not, that is, would not suffer them to receive Him and embrace Him as the Messiah. So that from the whole it appears that this passage of scripture, so much talked of by the Armenians and so often cited by them, has nothing to do with the contro­versy about the doctrine of election and reprobation and the power of man’s free will. This observa­tion alone is sufficient to destroy the argument founded on this passage in favor of free will.”

As shown by the whole twenty-third chapter of Matthew; the “Jerusalem” referred to by Christ in the 37th verse means the Scribes and Pharisees, the unregenerate, self righteous, devilish enemies of God, who had slain the prophets whom he had sent them to testify beforehand of the coming of Christ, and who after this time slew Christ Himself and His apostles, ,(Acts vii 52) and who were afterwards visited with the righteous and most terrible vengeance of God in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. (Matt. xxiv, 21; Luke, xxi, 22.) If they had not so treated the ministers of God, He would not have inflicted such awful temporal judgments upon them. As the ritualistic, covetous, hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees were, in the first century of the Christian era, the leading apostates from the pure, spiritual faith of the ancient patri­archs and prophets, and the bitterest and bloodiest enemies of the believers and preachers of. the truth so, beyond all question, since the first century, has been the exactly similar hierarchy of the Roman Catholic, so-called, Church, the great apostasy from Christianity, the Masterpiece of Satan, Mys­tery Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth, arrayed in purple and scarlet, decked with gold and precious stones and pearls and drunk with the blood of the saints and the martyrs of Jesus the bloodiest institution, as Mr. W. E,.H.Leckey, the chief of living historians, well says, ever known among men. And, as the literal Jerusalem, Rome’s abominable prototype, the authorities of the apostate Jewish Church, went down in the execution of the righteous and fearful vengeance of God, in a sea of blood to rise no more, so shall it be with apostate Rome, herself, who shall he forever overwhelmed with the richly merited and irremedi­able judgements of the Almighty and Eternal King. (Rev. xvii, xxiii, xix.) And in the spirit of the Son of Man, the ministers of Jesus have been will­ing for hundreds of years and are now willing to assemble and address and warn and preach the gospel of Christ to the deluded and oppressed members. of the Romish Anti-Christ, but the lordly, pharisaic, covetous authorities of that apostolical com­munion, popes, cardinals, bishops and priests forbid their votaries, on pain of excommunication from attending other religious services than their own; and God will, in due time, visit them with desolation, as He has the Jews, and, as, by the almighty spiritual power of the Lord, the Jews, who have been the bitterest enemies of Christ, will yet be brought to recognize and believe in and worship the true Messiah, (Matt. xxiii, 39; Zech. xii, 10; Rom. xi, 25, 26; 2 Cor. iii, 15, 16,) so by the same power, in the fullness of time, the Lord will pour out His spirit upon all flesh and the kingdoms of this world whether political or ecclesiastical, however hostile, previously, will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ and He will reign for ever and ever.. (Joel, ii 28 :32, Rom. xi 12, 15; Rev. xi 15: Numb.. xiv 21; Matt. vi 10; 2 Pet. iii 13; Rev. xxi 1,24.)

S. Hassell.

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