19.Did not Moses give you the Law? The Evangelist does not give a full and connected narrative of the sermon delivered by Christ, but only a brief selection of the principal topics, which contain the substance of what was spoken. The scribes mortally hated him, (186) and the priests had been kindled into rage against him, because he had cured a paralytic; and they professed that this arose from their zeal for the Law. To confute their hypocrisy, he reasons, not from the subject, but from the person. All of them having freely indulged in their vices, as if they had never known any law, he infers from it that they are not moved by any love or zeal for the Law. True, this defense would not have been sufficient to prove the point. Granting that — under a false pretense — they concealed their wicked and unjust hatred, still it does not follow that Christ did right, if he committed any thing contrary to the injunction of the Law; for we must not attempt to extenuate our own blame by the sins of others.
But Christ connects here two clauses. In the former, he addresses the consciences of his enemies, and, since they proudly boasted of being defenders of the Law, he tears from them this mask; for he brings against them this reproach, that they allow themselves to violate the Law as often as they please, and, therefore, that they care nothing about the Law. Next, he comes to the question itself, as we shall afterwards see; so that the defense is satisfactory and complete in all its parts. Consequently, the amount of this clause is, that no zeal for the Law exists in its despisers. Hence Christ infers that something else has excited the Jews to so great rage, when they seek to put him to death. In this manner we ought to drag the wicked from their concealments, whenever they fight against God and sound doctrine, and pretend to do so from pious motives.
Those who, in the present day, are the fiercest enemies of the Gospel and the most strenuous defenders of Popery, have nothing more plausible to urge in their behalf than that they are excited by ardor of zeal. But if their life be narrowly examined, they are all filled with base crimes, and openly mock at God. Who knows not that the Pope’ court is filled with Epicureans? (187) And as to Bishops and Abbots, have they as much modesty as to conceal their baseness, that some appearance of religion may be observed in them? Again, as to monks and other brawlers, are they not abandoned to all wickedness, to uncleanness, covetousness, and every kind of shocking crimes, so that their life cries aloud that they have altogether forgotten God? And now that they are not ashamed to boast of their zeal for God and the Church, ought we not to repress them by this reply of Christ?