on Matthew 9 :17
New wine into old bottles - It is still the custom, in the eastern countries, to make their bottles of goat skins: if these happened to be old, and new wine were put into them, the violence of the fermentation must necessarily burst them; and therefore newly made bottles were employed for the purpose of putting that wine in which had not yet gone through its state of fermentation. The institutes of Christ, and those of the Pharisees, could never be brought to accord: an attempt to combine the two systems would be as absurd as it would be destructive. The old covenant made way for the new, which was its completion and its end; but with that old covenant the new cannot be incorporated.
Christian prudence requires that the weak, and newly converted, should be managed with care and tenderness. To impose such duties and mortifications as are not absolutely necessary to salvation, before God has properly prepared the heart by his grace for them, is a conduct as absurd and ruinous as putting a piece of raw, unscoured cloth on an old garment; it is, in a word, requiring the person to do the work of a man, while as yet he is but a little child. Preachers of the Gospel, and especially those who are instruments in God's hand of many conversions, have need of much heavenly wisdom, that they may know to watch over, guide, and advise those who are brought to a sense of their sin and danger. How many auspicious beginnings have been ruined by men's proceeding too hastily, endeavoring to make their own designs take place, and to have the honor of that success themselves which is due only to God.
on Matthew 9 :17
Neither do men put new wine ... - The third illustration was taken from wine put into bottles.
Bottles, in Eastern nations, were made, and are still made, of skins of beasts. Generally the skin was taken entire from a sheep or a goat, and, properly prepared, was filled with wine or water. Such bottles are still used, because, in crossing deserts of sand, they have no other conveyances but camels, or other beasts of burden. It would be difficult for them to carry glass bottles or kegs on them. They therefore fill two skins, and fasten them together and lay them across the back of a camel, and thus carry wine or water to a great distance. These bottles were, of course, of different sizes, as the skins of kids, goats, or oxen might be used. Bruce describes particularly a bottle which he saw in Arabia, made in this manner of an ox-skin, which would hold 60 gallons, and two of which were a lead for a camel. By long usage, however, bottles of skins became tender and would be easily ruptured. New wine put into them would ferment, and swell and burst them open. New skins or bottles would yield to the fermenting wine, and be strong enough to hold it from bursting. So, says Christ, there is "fitness" or propriety of things. It is not "fit" that my doctrine should be attached to or connected with the old and corrupt doctrines of the Pharisees. New things should be put together, and made to match.
This account of Eastern bottles may illustrate the following passages in the Bible: The Gibeonites took "wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up," Joshua 9:4. "My belly is ready to burst, like new bottles," Job 32:19. "I am become like a bottle in the smoke," Psalm 119:83; i. e., like a bottle of skin hung up in a tent filled with smoke.
on Matthew 9 :17