Matthew 23:37 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!
Luke 13:34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!
Notice how in both cases, the text states: "would I have gathered thy children together," not "gathered thee" or "gathered you." But it gets misquoted many many times.
I have collected some examples. I leave Spurgeon at the top of the list, not just because he is so famous and yet so prolific in making this error, but because people routinely don't believe me when I say he is one of the folks who misquote this passage. Some of the other examples, will be less surprising, Wesley, Arminius, and Finney all have an axe to grind. Matthew Henry misquotes it too, very briefly and obliquely. That leaves Tillotson, who many readers will not recognize, but who was a noted Anglican preacher and Archbishop of Cantebury toward the end of the 17th Century.
We have no eyes now like the eyes of the Saviour, which could weep over Jerusalem; we have few voices like that earnest impassioned voice which seemed perpetually to cry, "Come unto me, and I will give you rest." "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thee as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not." If ministers of the gospel were more hearty in their work of preaching; if, instead of giving lectures and devoting a large part of their time to literary and political pursuits, they would preach the Word of God, and preach it as if they were pleading for their own lives, ah! then, my brethren, we might expect great success; but we cannot expect it while we go about our work in a half-hearted way, and have not that zeal, that earnestness, that deep purpose which characterized those men of old.(Spurgeon, Sermon 76)
And now, dropping the similitude while the clock shall tick but a few times more, let us put the matter thus—Sinner, thou art as yet without God and without Christ; thou art liable to death every hour. Thou canst not tell but that thou mayest be in the flames of hell before the clock shall strike ONE to-day. Thou art to-day “condemned already,” because thou believest not in the Son of God. And Jesus Christ saith to thee this day, “Oh, that thou wouldest consider thy latter end!” He cries to thee this morning, “How often would I have gathered thee as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not.” I entreat you, consider your ways. If it be worth while to make your bed in hell do it. If the pleasures of this world are worth being damned to all eternity for enjoying them, if heaven be a cheat and hell a delusion, go on in your sins. But, if there be hell for sinners and heaven for repenting ones, and if thou must dwell a whole eternity in one place or the other, without similitude, I put a plain question to thee—Art thou wise in living as thou dost, without thought,—careless, and godless? Wouldest thou ask now the way of salvation? It is simply this—“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” He died; he rose again; thou art to believe him to be thine. Thou art to believe that he is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him. But, more than that, believing that to be a fact, thou art to cast thy soul upon that fact and trust to him, sink or swim. Spirit of God! help us each to do this and by similitude, or by providence, or by thy prophets, bring us each to thyself and save us eternally, and unto thee shall be the glory.(Spurgeon, Sermon 206)
Secondly,—We have further proof of human depravity from the aversion of sinners to come to Christ. They are invited to come, persuaded to come, and are assured that they shall find pardon, acceptance, and salvation. But they cannot be induced to come to him; and why will they not come? Is it because he is not willing to receive them, or because there is anything in him to prevent them? No, but it is because of the deep-rooted depravity in their hearts. The heart is averse to all that is good, and therefore rejects the Saviour and turns away from him. Hence he complained when in our world, “How often would I have gathered you, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.” “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” What more needed to be added? Man turns away in proud disdain from all the blessings of the gospel, and the glories of heaven brought before him, and rushes on with steady purpose to damnation. “Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.” Oh, to how many in this land may it be said, “They hate knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord; they would none of his counsel, they despised all his reproof.”(Evan Probert, among Spurgeon's Sermons, Sermon 386)
But, now, I am sorry to be so brief, but I must conclude by speaking, of THE IMPORTANCE THAT FAITH SHOULD COME TO US BY HEARING. I will let my words drop rapidly without any ornament, and remind you, dear friend, that if you have been a hearer and faith has not come to you, you are, this moment, in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity. You believe not in Christ, and you make God a liar, because ye have not believed in his only-begotten Son. The wrath of God abideth on you. You are dead while you live. Without God, without Christ, and strangers to the covenant of promise. My soul pities you—will you not pity yourselves? Hearers only; faithless, graceless, Christless! Christ died, but you have no part in his death. His blood cleanses from sin, but your sin remains upon you. Christ has risen, and he pleads before the throne,—you have no part in that intercession. He is preparing a place for his people, but that place is not for you. Oh, unhappy soul! oh, wretched soul! out of favor with God, at enmity with eternal love, destitute of eternal life! Truly, if Jesus were here he would weep over you, as he did over Jerusalem, and say, “How often would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.”(Spurgeon, Sermon 1031)
We may observe likewise, hence, how great a sin they are guilty of who persecute the righteous, and how terrible a vengeance from God waits on them. Particular examples of this have been in all ages: but as the guilt of this sin never went higher than at this time foretold by our Saviour, when God sent to the Jews such “prophets, and wise men, and scribes,” and such a number of them as never upon any occasion were sent into the world, and they used them in that bloody and barbarous manner; no wonder, if the vengeance that came upon them was such as never had been before; and if, after they had filled up the measure of their sins, by crucifying the Lord Jesus, and persecuting his apostles, and stoning and killing all the prophets that were sent unto them, “the wrath of God came upon them to the utmost,” and such a terrible destruction from the Lord, as never befel any people; insomuch that our Saviour, upon the foresight and mention of it, forty years before it happened, could not but weep over them, and express himself in those compassion ate words, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem: thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thee as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings; but ye would not! Behold your house is left unto you desolate.”(Dr. John Tillotson, Sermon 80)
And it is, likewise, contrary to the constant tenor of the Bible, which supposeth that men do very frequently resist the grace and Holy Spirit of God. It is said of the pharisees, by our Saviour, (Luke vii. 30.) that “they rejected the counsel of God against themselves;” that is, the merciful design of God for their salvation. And of the Jews, (Acts vii. 51.) that “they always resisted the Holy Ghost. So that some operations of God’s grace and Holy Spirit 374are resistible, and such as, if men did not resist them, would be effectual to bring them to faith and repentance, else why are the pharisees said to reject “the counsel of God against themselves,” that is, to their own ruin? implying, that if they had not rejected it, they might have been saved; and if they had, it had been without irresistible grace; for that which was offered to them, was actually resisted by them. Other texts plainly shew, that the reason of men’s impenitency and unbelief is not any thing wanting on God’s part, but on theirs; as those known texts, wherein our Saviour laments the case of Jerusalem, because they obstinately brought destruction upon themselves: (Luke xix. 42.) “Jf thou hadst known in this thy day, the things that belong to thy peace:” intimating, that they might have known them, so as to have prevented that desolation which was coming upon them, and was a forerunner of their eternal ruin: “but now they are hid from thine eyes;” intimating, that then God gave them up to their own blindness and obstinacy; but the time was, when they might have “known the things of their peace;” which cannot be upon the supposition of the necessity of an irresistible act of God’s grace to their conversion and repentance; because then without that they could not have repented, and if that had been afforded to them, they had infallibly repented. So likewise, in that other text, (Matt. xxiii. 37.) “Oh! Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thee, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and you would not.” And, in John, v. 40. “Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life.” He “would have gathered them,” and they “would not;” he would have given them life, but they would not come to him. Are these serious and compassionate expostulations and declarations of our Saviour’s gracious intention towards them, any ways consistent with an impossibility of their repentance? which yet must be said, if irresistible grace be necessary thereto; for then repentance is impossible without it, and that it was not afforded to them is plain, because they did not repent. The same may be said of that solemn declaration of God, (Ezek. xxxiii. 11.) “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” Can it be said that God hath no pleasure in the death of sinners, and yet be true, that he denies, to the greatest part of them, that grace which is necessary to their repentance? Upon this supposition, how can it be true, that, “if the mighty works that were done in Chorazin and Bethsaida had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented,” (Matt. xi. 21.) since irresistible grace did not accompany those miracles? for if it had, Chorazin and Bethsaida had repented, and without it Tyre and Sidon could not repent.(Dr. John Tillotson, Sermon 106)
Consider that the patience of God will have an end. Though God suffers long, he will not suffer always; we may provoke God so long, until he can forbear no longer without injury and dishonour to his wisdom, and justice, and holiness; and God will not suffer one attribute to wrong the rest: his wisdom will determine the length of his patience; and when his patience is to no purpose, when there is no hopes of our amendment, his wisdom will then put a period to it; then the patience of his mercy will determine. “How often would I have gathered you, and you would not? therefore your house is left unto you desolate.” And the patience of God’s judgments will then determine. “Why should they be smitten any more? they will revolt more and more.” Yea, patience itself, after a long and fruitless expectation, will expire. A sinner may continue so long impenitent, till the patience of God, as I may say, grows impenitent, and then our ruin will make haste, and destruction “will come upon us in a moment.” If men will not come to repentance, “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night,” as it follows in the next verse after the text; the judgment of God will suddenly surprise those who will not be gained by his patience.(Dr. John Tillotson, Sermon 149)
That God doth really and heartily desire the happiness of men, and to prevent their misery and ruin. To express this to us, God doth put on the vehemency of a human passion: “Oh that they were wise!” &c. The laws of God are a clear evidence of this; because the observance of them tends to our happiness. There is no good prince makes laws with any other design, than to promote the public welfare and happiness of his people: and with much more reason may we imagine, that the infinite good God does by all his laws design the happiness of his creatures. And the exhortations of Scripture, by which he enforceth his laws, are yet a greater evidence how earnestly he desires the happiness of his creatures. For it shews that he is concerned for us, when he useth so many arguments to persuade us to our duty, and when he expostulates so vehemently with us for our neglect of it, saying to sinners, “Turn ye, turn ye, why will you die, O house of Israel?” “Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life,” says our blessed Saviour, with great trouble to see men so obstinately set against their own happiness; and again, “How often would I have gathered you, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” and to satisfy us yet further, that it is his real desire, by our obedience to his laws, to prevent our ruin, God doth frequently in Scripture put on the passions of men, and use all sorts of vehement expressions to this purpose: (Deut. v. 29.) “Oh that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” And, (Psal. lxxxi. 13.) “Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.” (Jer. xiii. 27.) “O Israel! wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be?” And, to name but one text more, when our blessed .Saviour wept over Jerusalem, how passionately does he wish that “she had known in that her day the things that belonged to her peace!”(Dr. John Tillotson, Sermon 171)
And if, after all this, we can doubt whether the faithful God means as he says, he hath for our farther assurance, and to put the matter out of all doubt, confirmed his word by an oath: (Ezek. xxxiii. 11.) “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his ways and live. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” So that if words can be any declaration of a hearty and sincere desire, we have no reason to doubt, but that God does really desire the happiness of men, and would gladly prevent their ruin and destruction.
If any now ask, Why then are not all men happy? Why do they not escape ruin and destruction? And particularly, why the people of Israel, for whom God here makes this wish, did not escape those judgments which were threatened? the prophet shall answer for me, (Hos. xiii. 9.) “O Israel! thou hast destroyed thyself,” And David, (Psal. lxxxi. 11.) “My people would not hearken to my voice, Israel would none of me.” And our blessed Saviour, (Matt. xxiii. 37.) “How often would I have gathered thee, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” and, (John v. 40.) “Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.” You see what account the Scripture plainly gives of this matter; it rests upon the wills of men, and God hath not thought fit to force happiness upon men, and to make them wise and good whether they will or no. He presents men with such motives, and offers such arguments to their consideration, as are fit to prevail with reasonable men, and is ready to afford them all necessary assistance, if they be not wanting to themselves; but if they will not be wise and consider, if they will stand out against all the arguments that God can offer, if they will “receive the grace of God in vain, and resist his blessed Spirit, and reject the counsel of God against themselves,” God hath not, in this case, engaged himself to provide any remedy against the obstinacy and perverseness of men, but “their destruction is of themselves,” and “their blood shall be upon their own heads.” And there is no nicety and intricacy in this matter; but if men will consider Scripture and reason impartially, they will find this to be the plain resolution of the case.
Our Saviour’s general prediction of the siege of Jerusalem, and of the total destruction of the city. This our Saviour foretells, (Luke xix. 41-44.) “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side; and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee: and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” So Josephus tells, lib. vi. that Titus raised a wall round about Jerusalem, and kept them in on every side; so that none could come out, though many thousands were famished with hunger; which was so sad and dismal a calamity, that our Saviour, though he knew how just a cause there was for it, yet, out of very humanity and tenderness of nature, he could not but, upon the foresight of so sad a destruction, weep over it. He, indeed, expresseth his vehement desire that this might have been prevented; (Matt. xxiii. 37.) “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thee, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Therefore, having brought this ruin wilfully upon themselves, he pronounceth the sentence of their desolation, (verse 38.) “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate!” And at the beginning of the next chapter, when the disciples were shewing him the beautiful structure of the temple, he foretells, that “there should not one stone be left upon another, which should not be thrown down.”(Dr. John Tillotson, Sermon 287)
This is an exclamation of disappointment; of thwarted love. The good which He purposed has been missed by man’s fault, and He regards the faulty Israel with sorrow and pity as a would-be benefactor balked of a kind intention might do. O Jerusalem! ‘how often would I have gathered thee.’ ‘If thou hadst known . . . the things that belong unto thy peace!’(Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: Isaiah and Jeremiah, at Isaiah 48:18)
37. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, &c.—How ineffably grand and melting is this apostrophe! It is the very heart of God pouring itself forth through human flesh and speech. It is this incarnation of the innermost life and love of Deity, pleading with men, bleeding for them, and ascending only to open His arms to them and win them back by the power of this story of matchless love, that has conquered the world, that will yet "draw all men unto Him," and beautify and ennoble Humanity itself! "Jerusalem" here does not mean the mere city or its inhabitants; nor is it to be viewed merely as the metropolis of the nation, but as the center of their religious life—"the city of their solemnities, whither the tribes went up, to give thanks unto the name of the Lord"; and at this moment it was full of them. It is the whole family of God, then, which is here apostrophized by a name dear to every Jew, recalling to him all that was distinctive and precious in his religion. The intense feeling that sought vent in this utterance comes out first in the redoubling of the opening word—"Jerusalem, Jerusalem!" but, next, in the picture of it which He draws—"that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee!"—not content with spurning God's messages of mercy, that canst not suffer even the messengers to live! When He adds, "How often would I have gathered thee!" He refers surely to something beyond the six or seven times that He visited and taught in Jerusalem while on earth. No doubt it points to "the prophets," whom they "killed," to "them that were sent unto her," whom they "stoned." But whom would He have gathered so often? "Thee," truth-hating, mercy-spurning, prophet-killing Jerusalem—how often would I have gathered thee! Compare with this that affecting clause in the great ministerial commission, "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem!" (Lu 24:47). What encouragement to the heartbroken at their own long-continued and obstinate rebellion! But we have not yet got at the whole heart of this outburst. I would have gathered thee, He says, "even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings." Was ever imagery so homely invested with such grace and such sublimity as this, at our Lord's touch? And yet how exquisite the figure itself—of protection, rest, warmth, and all manner of conscious well-being in those poor, defenseless, dependent little creatures, as they creep under and feel themselves overshadowed by the capacious and kindly wing of the mother bird! If, wandering beyond hearing of her peculiar call, they are overtaken by a storm or attacked by an enemy, what can they do but in the one case droop and die, and in the other submit to be torn in pieces? But if they can reach in time their place of safety, under the mother's wing, in vain will any enemy try to drag them thence. For rising into strength, kindling into fury, and forgetting herself entirely in her young, she will let the last drop of her blood be shed out and perish in defense of her precious charge, rather than yield them to an enemy's talons. How significant all this of what Jesus is and does for men! Under His great Mediatorial wing would He have "gathered" Israel. For the figure, see De 32:10-12; Ru 2:12; Ps 17:8; 36:7; 61:4; 63:7; 91:4; Isa 31:5; Mal 4:2. The ancient rabbins had a beautiful expression for proselytes from the heathen—that they had "come under the wings of the Shekinah." For this last word, see on Mt 23:38. But what was the result of all this tender and mighty love? The answer is, "And ye would not." O mysterious word! mysterious the resistance of such patient Love—mysterious the liberty of self-undoing! The awful dignity of the will, as here expressed, might make the ears to tingle.(Jamieson, Brown, and Fausset, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, at Matthew 23:37)
Sixthly, you say that the foundation being destroyed, the edifice falls. But the foundation of that opinion in reference to the antecedent will, which desires the salvation of all men and of each, is the passage in 1 Timothy ch. 2, which has been already discussed by us, and that is incorrectly understood by Damascenus. I reply, first; -- Not only that passage, but many others, most clearly sustain that distinction of the will into antecedent and consequent. "How often would I have gathered you together," is an example of antecedent, and "your house is left unto you desolate" of consequent will (Matt. xxiii. 37-38). "And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding," is a case of antecedent will, "they which were bidden were not worthy" and were destroyed, of consequent will. He, also, was invited, according to antecedent will, who, being afterwards found, not having on a wedding garment, was cast out, according to consequent will (Matt. xxii. 3, 7, 8, 12 and 13). According to antecedent will, the lord commanded his servants to reckon their talents, and to use them for gain for their master; by consequent will, the talent, which he had received, was taken from the wicked and slothful servant (Matt. 25). By antecedent will, the word of God was first offered to the Jews; by consequent will, the same word was taken from them and sent to others (Acts 13). The same distinction is proved by a consideration of the attributes of God; for since God is good and just, He can not will eternal death to His own creature, made in His image, without reference to sin; He can not but will eternal salvation to His creature. The immutability of God necessarily requires the same thing. For since His providence has given to all His creatures means, necessary and sufficient, by which they can attain their designed end, but the designed end of man, made in the image of God, is eternal life, it hence follows that all men are loved by God unto eternal life by antecedent will; nor can God, without a change of His own arrangement, deny eternal life unto men, without reference to sin; which denial, being consequent on the act of man, pertains to consequent will.(Arminius, Works, Volume 3, Allegation 4)
If you ask, “Why then are not all men saved?” the whole law and the testimony answer, First, Not because of any decree of God; not because it is his pleasure they should die; for, As I live, saith the Lord God,” I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth.” (Ezek. 18:3, 32.) Whatever be the cause of their perishing, it cannot be his will, if the oracles of God are true; for they declare, “He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance;” (2 Pet. 3:9; ) “He willeth that all men should be saved.” And they, Secondly, declare what is the cause why all men are not saved, namely, that they will not be saved: So our Lord expressly, “Ye will not come unto me that ye may have life.” (John 5:40.) “The power of the Lord is present to heal” them, but they will not be healed. “They reject the counsel,” the merciful counsel, “of God against themselves,” as did their stiff-necked forefathers. And therefore are they without excuse; because God would save them, but they will not be saved: This is the condemnation, “How often would I have gathered you together, and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37.)(John Wesley, Sermon 128)
What will you say? I’ll go on still in my sins? Again all we can say is that the bowels of divine love are deeply moved for you—that God has done all to save you that He wisely can do. God’s people have felt a deep and agonizing interest in you and are ready now to cry, How can we give them up? But what more can we do—what more can even God do? With bleeding heart and quivering lip has Mercy followed you. Jesus Himself said, “How often would I have gathered you— O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! How often I would have saved you, but ye would not!” Shall Jesus behold and weep over you, and say, “O that thou hadst known, even thou in this thy day—but now it is hidden from thine eyes?” What, O dying sinner, will you say? Shall not your response be, “It is enough—I have dashed away salvation’s cup long and wickedly enough; you need not say another word, O that bleeding hand! those weeping eyes! Is it possible that I have withstood a Saviour’s love so long? I am ready to beg for mercy now; and I rejoice to hear that our God has a father’s heart.”(Finney, Sermon 8, Remarks)
Here, I. God sends Moses the second time to Pharaoh (v. 11) upon the same errand as before, to command him, at his peril, that he let the children of Israel go. Note, God repeats his precepts before he begins his punishments. Those that have often been called in vain to leave their sins must yet be called again and again, whether they will hear or whether they will forbear, Ezek. iii. 11. God is said to hew sinners by his prophets (Hos. vi. 5), which denotes the repetition of the strokes. How often would I have gathered you?(Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, at Exodus 6:10-13)