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William Burkitt (1650-1703) on Matthew 23:37

June 26, 2009

Burkitt:

37 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! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. 39 For I say unto you. Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

Our Lord concludes this chapter with a pathetical lamentation over Jerusalem. His ingemination or doubling of the word, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” shows the vehemency of Christ’s affection towards them, and the sincerity of his desires for their salvation. Observe, 1. The great kindness and compassion of Christ to the Jews in general, and Jerusalem in particular, set forth by a lively metaphor and similitude; that of an hen gathering her chickens under her wings. As the hen doth tenderly cherish, and carefully hide and cover her young from the eye of the destroyer; so would Christ have shrouded and sheltered his people from all those birds of prey, and particularly from the Roman eagle, by which they were at last devoured. Again, as the hen continues her call to her young ones from morning to night, and holds out her wings for shelter to them all the day long; so did Christ wait for this people’s repentance and conversion for more than forty years after they had killed his prophets, and murdered himself, before they met with a final overthrow. Observe, 2. The amazing obstinacy and willfulness of this people, in rejecting this grace and favor, this kindness and condescension of the Lord Jesus Christ: “I would have gathered you, but ye would not.” Observe, 3. The fatal issue of this obstinacy. “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” “Is left;” that is, certainly and suddenly will be so. The present tense put for the paulo post futurum, it denotes both the certainty and nearness of this people’s ruin. Learn, 1. That the ruin and destruction of sinners is wholly chargeable upon themselves; that is, on their own willfulness and obstinacy: “I would have gathered you, says Christ, but ye would not.” Learn, 2. How deplorably and inexcusably they will perish, who perish by their own willfulness under the gospel. 3. That there is no desire like unto God’s desire of a people’s repentance; no longing like unto God’s longing for a people’s salvation “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thee!” “When shall it once be!” Christ did very seriously desire the conversion of the Jews, who continued still in their impenitency and unbelief. And consequently they whom he so seriously desired to convert, might have been converted, but they would not be so: “I would have gathered you, but ye would not.”

William Burkitt, Expository Notes With Practical Observations on the New Testament (Philadelphia: Published by Thomas Wardle, 1835), 1:119-120. [Some spelling modernized, italics original, and underlining mine.]

[Notes: 1) It seems strange that many would seek to make a disconnection between the “city” and the “children.” While the lament is directed to the city fathers, the “children” denotes the masses, the citizen body. Marlorate, as early as the 15th century recognized this. Even John Gill’s mature statements recognizes that the “children” refers to the masses of the city.  2) It is clear that the “children” cannot refer to the elect. If it did, then the dilemma would be that Christ sought to gather the elect from the city, but they, the leaders, would not: that is, they prevented Christ from accomplishing this gathering. 3) If one wants to evade the force of this passage–which strongly implies that God wills and desires the salvation of all men, and that by way of the well-meant offer–then the only option is to disconnect the humanity of Christ from his divinity, such that here is a case of Jesus, only as a man with human compassion, expressing his lament and desire for their salvation. However, on this line of argument, see Dabney’s stinging criticism.]

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