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sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with ; but to sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give, but for whom it is prepared of my Father.” 1
The reader will observe, that I give the concluding clause without the additional words which are inserted into our translation, and which are indicated to be not in the original Greek by the Italic character, the customary index employed by our translators on all such occasions. Accordingly the sentence correctly runs, “to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but,” that is, except to those, “ for whom it is prepared of my Father.” This correction does no: immediately affect the particular subject of our present inquiry. But as, in referring hereafter to the text, I would wish to refer to it in its most correct form, I judge it advisable that this matter should be adjusted in the outset.
For a clearer understanding of this narrative, and for its application to our present inquiry, I now proceed to observe, that the royal character
· Matt xx. 20-23.
and state which had been ascribed to the promised Messiah by the Hebrew prophets, and the image of a kingdom under which his future dispensation had been foreshadowed, had impressed the Jews with an expectation, that our Lord, when He made his appearance upon earth in fulfilment of their national predictions, would establish a temporal sovereignty over the world. His apostles partook in this general prepossession and anticipation of their countrymen. They expected that the establishment of an earthly sovereignty would consummate his pretensions to superior wisdom, authority, and power: and they were with difficulty at length induced to surrender the flattering vision, which they had persisted in fondly cherishing during their Lord's ministry, that a season of national prosperity would succeed to that of their national humiliation and depression; and that the Messiah, however He might delay the restoration, would nevertheless eventually “restore again the kingdom to Israel.” 1
Meanwhile, that they who had been the chosen, the constant, and generally the faithful attendants of their Lord through his lowlier course, should be partakers of his elevation, and be admitted to a proportionate share in the glory of his royal dignity, was a reasonable perhaps, at least a natural expectation. The highest stations of honor in his
* Acts i. 6.
kingdom, a nearer approach to his royal person, a more intimate communication of the imperial favor of their Lord, would naturally be an object of ambition with them all.
Such in effect was the consequence of their expectation of his temporal sovereignty. Hence the repeated disputes and strifes among thein all in general, “ which should be accounted the greatest” in their Master's anticipated kingdom. And hence in particular the petition of two of the most favored of their number, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, as recorded in the narrative before us: a petition expressive of their own most fervent desire, for from St. Mark's relation it appears to have been urged by themselves in person ; and pressed upon the notice of the Saviour by the additional most lowly solicitation of their mother Salome, who, as St. Matthew relates, " came to him worshipping him,” and beseeching that He would “grant that these her two sons might sit, the one on his right hand, and the other on the left,” or, according to the usage of worldly potentates, in the two stations of the highest power and dignity " in his kingdom.”
To this petition of the two brethren their Lord made answer by a question on his part, relative to their qualifications for the solicited pre-eminence. 6. Ye know not what
Are ye able to dri of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with ? '
ye ask. Are
alluding to that bitter cup of suffering, of which, in compliance with the awful dispensation of divine mercy and wisdom, He was about to drink: and to that agonizing baptism, wherewith He was soon to be baptized in his own blood. They say unto him, We are able :” they probably did not perceive the full import of the question ; or they presumed too confidently on their own resolution and strength.
But our Lord accepted this tender of their readiness to partake of his sufferings; and ratified it by a prediction of its fulfilment in their future destiny: “Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with.” But at the same time, adopting the phraseology of their petition, and leaving the proper exposition of it, and its liberation from the erroneous notions concerning a temporal kingdom, with which it was encumbered in the minds of the Apostles, to future opportunities, He added, “but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but for whom,” or except to those for whom, “it is prepared of my Father.” They appear to have supposed that the distinctions which they sought would be bestowed by their Master absolutely and arbitrarily, in pursuance of a feeling of partiality and fondness for his followers, and in compliance with the importunity of friends and interested advocates, after the manner of earthly sovereigns : He gives them to understand, that the distinction, which He should in reality bestow, would be bestowed upon very different principles, and agreeably to the general rules adapted to the perfections of the divine nature, and prescribed by God for he distribution of future glory and happiness.
And now, that we may apply this to our immediate purpose, the language employed by our blessed Lord in this memorable dialogue appears clearly to warrant the opinion, that different degrees of felicity and glory are prepared for those, who shall be admitted to the fruition of the Godhead in a future state of existence.
The two brethren, we have seen, petitioned of their Lord to “grant that they might sit, the one on his right hand, and the other on the left, in his kingdom.” Concerning the nature of the kingdom, in which these stations of pre-eminence were deşired, He made no remark, leaving that to be unfolded in due time more clearly to their apprehension. But the existence of such stations as they desired, stations of distinguished and pre-eminent dignity, his answer appears to recognise : for He distinctly speaks of those to whom " it should be given,” and “ for whom it was prepared," “ to sit on his right hand and on his left," in contradistinction as it should seem from those, to whom other stations would be assigned in his realm of glory. It the two Apostles sought by their petition, as unquestionably they did seek, stations of dignified pre-eminence above their fellows in the Messiah's kingdom, though of that kingdom itself they mistook