“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.” - Matt. xxiii. 37.

THERE has been much controversy among professors of religion, on the text which we place at the head of these remarks. At the request of several correspondents, we will also show our opinion.

It is contended by the arminians, that what our Lord has said in this case, to Jerusalem, is applicable to all the unregenerated part of mankind; that our Lord Jesus Christ is now, and has often been willing to save sinners, yea, all sinners, but they will not consent; that he was willing to save Jerusalem, and had frequently been willing, but he had been prevented by their stubbornness - they would not. In harmony with such an exposition of the text, it is urged that salvation depends not on the sovereign will of God, but solely on the will and decision of the creature; that it is the will of God to save all mankind; but the will of God saves no one; that his will is inefficient, and it is not done in heaven nor among the sons of men. The creature is held forth as a sovereign indeed; and it is left for man to decide to what extent the will of God may be executed in the economy of salvation.

However extravagant such blasphemy must sound in the ears of regenerate persons, It is a prominent doctrine of the arminians; and the text before us is tortured to yield an unnatural consent to the damnable heresy. All the essays we can write on this text, or upon any other portion of divine revelation, will never undeceive those unto whom strong delusions are sent, that they may believe a lie. None but God can open the blind eyes, or unstop the deaf ears of such as are capable of believing that the will of man is more omnipotent, more sovereign and irresistible than the will of God.

But in the minds of even some of the saints, doubts have found place, as to the meaning of this text; for the edification of such we write.

The words of this text were uttered by our Lord Jesus Christ, while in the days of his flesh he sojourned upon the earth; and they were spoken in reference to the calamity that was about to be experienced by the Jews, in the execution of divine wrath upon the city of Jerusalem, which was soon to take place. In the preceding connection of this passage, we find our Lord upbraiding the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the scribes pharisees, lawyers, &c., whom he denounced as hypocrites, blind guides, &c. He charged that very pious and devout people, who were so exceedingly zealous for God, that they were shocked with the irreligion of Christ and his disciples, with the murder, not only of all the messengers that he had sent among them, from the day of Abel, but of the murder also of all them that he was then about to send among them, as the immediate precursors of their overthrow. He assures them that all the accumulated guilt of those who had murdered his servants should be required of that generation; and then in the same connection says, “0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee;“ thus distinguishing the Jerusalem unto whom his language was addressed, from that Jerusalem which is above, is free, and which is the mother of all the sons and daughters of Zion; the very Jerusalem. against which all the threatening predictions of the Old Testament were leveled; the city stained with blood, laden with iniquity, and verging upon her temporal ruin. “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings.” Our Lord does not say, How often would I have gathered you, but, “thy children.” There is in this text an evident distinction marked between this city devoted to destruction, and those within the city, which our Lord would succor and defend. But it may be asked, How, and to what end does a hen gather: her chickens under her wings? When the watchful eye of the hen descrys the distant hawk, or any other impending danger which the unthinking chickens are heedless of, by a well known signal she gives the alarm, and they, by instinct taught, run to her for protection; so also when the shades of evening gather, and the chilling damps of night would chill the unfledged brood, she carefully gathers them under her protecting wings; not to make chickens of them, but for their security and comfort. So, in like manner, when he who sees the end from the beginning, forseeing these dreadful judgments which were gathering thick, and hastening fast to overtake the city of these murderous Jews, would have collected, called out from among them, those who stood in the same relation to him as the chickens do to the hen; and in collecting them, he would have shielded them from those calamities which they must suffer by remaining in Jerusalem until the destruction of the city should take place. It is supposed by many, from the manner of our Lord’s expression, “and ye would not,” that although he often had been willing to shelter and protect the children of Jerusalem, that he had been prevented from it, by their want of inclination; such a construction of his words would conflict with matters of fact; for he had not only been often willing, but equally as often he had accomplished his will, had equally as often gathered and and hovered over them for their protection and comfort; the indisposition of the carnal to the contrary, notwithstanding. This was most strikingly exemplified in the actual extinction of that city. As the hen gives the signal of danger to her chickens, so our Lord gave repeated warnings to his disciples, of what troubles were at hand; the signs also which should indicate the near approach of the great and terrible day of the Lord, were minutely detailed; and they were charged to flee from the city, and hasten to the mountain, when they should receive the peculiar signal, of which he had duly instructed them. Hence we see that the “will not” of the ungodly Jews could not hinder the accomplishment of the absolute will of God.

In prospect of the deliverance of his saints, and the utter overthrow of Jerusalem, he adds: “Behold your house is left unto you (not unto your children, whom he would have often succored, but unto you, who kill the prophets, &c.) desolate.” The children or inhabitants withdrawn, moved out, and the empty walls of the carnal building only remaining. As they had been hitherto preserved like a vine having a blessing in it, and as a tree, of which one said, “Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it;” but now that that blessing is withdrawn, God’s spiritual people called out, nothing but the carnal or fleshly relationship to Abraham remaining, the house of Israel is left desolate; and they shall see Christ no more in delivering them from evil, until they shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. It is confidently expected that the day will yet dawn upon the scattered Israelites, when they shall be released from that blindness which in part has happened unto them, until the fullness of the Gentiles are brought in. There seems to be a very strong intimation given in the closing verse of this chapter, that the day shall yet come when the Jews as a people shall bless the name of Christ the Messiah.

November 1, 1841.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 722 – 726