صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

the preformance of the miracle, but rather to draw from our great Re deemer such an answer as they might take advantage of, and which might give them an opportunity to accuse him with the greater success: but our Lord answered them in such a manner as let them know that he penetra ted their deepest designs, and at the same time baffled and confounded their utmost rage. "Is it," said he, "lawful to do good on the sabbathday, or to do evil? To save life, or to destroy it ?" Is it lawful for you, yea most detestable hypocrites, to harbour in your minds the most infernal rancour and hatred against me; and with the highest injustice and cruelty to plot against my life on the sabbath day? And is it not lawful for me to restore to his former strength this poor distressed man who stands before you? The justice and severity of this rebuke struck them dumb; and, not being able to reply, they pretended not to understand his meaning: but to leave them without excuse, our Lord made use of an argument which stupidity itself could not mistake, and which all the sophistry of these hypocritical teachers was not able to evade. "What man," said our exalted Saviour, ❤ shall there be amongst you, who shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath day."

This plain reference to their own practice was so clear and convincing, that they could not pretend to be ignorant of it; and so full that they were effectually silenced though they were determined not to be convinced.This wicked perverseness and unconquerable obstinacy grieved the spirit of the meek and lowly, the kind and benevolent Son of God, who looking round on his enemies with a mixture of compassion and sorrow, kindly commanded the lame man to stretch out his hand: the man gladly obeyed, and instantly it was restored whole as the other.

This astonishing work our great Redeemer performed in a large congregation in the full view of all the people, in whom the foregoing dispute had raised a curiosity to behold the event; and as, no doubt, it was performed on a person that frequented the synagogue, most of the persons there present were acquainted with the man, while he laboured under this infirmity, and seeing Jesus in such a situation in the midst of his most inveterate enemies, it must certainly have a great effect on the minds of the beholders,especially as they saw that it had effectually silenced the Pharisees, who had nothing to offer, either against the miracle itself, the proofs and reasonings urged for the fitness and propriety of it, or the divine power of him who had performed it.

But though these proud, envious, and hypocritical teachers were astonished at the miracles, and silenced by the arguments of the Son of God, yet they were far from giving up their unjust and cruel institutions: for though they bore an inveterate hatred to the Sadducees and Herodians because they presumed to differ from them in their religious sentiments, yet they could join with these persons they so much despised, and consult with them in order to take away his life.

For they well knew if he continued the course of his ministry, and produced such incontestible evidences of divine power, the people would follow him; when their own weight and influence would quickly decline, and their preaching become contemptible. Jesus well knew their wicked designs, yet he did not think proper at this time any further to oppose them Lat retired into Galilee, to the borders of the lake of Chinnereth.

This retreat of our great Redeemer seems to have displeased some of his disciples, who had strongly imbibed the popular idea of the Messiah's temporal kingdoin, and expected that he would have established his authority by force, and exerted his divine power to bear down all opposition; and they were extremely mortified to find their master give way, and seem to decline any further contest. But the obscurity of his retreat could not

[ocr errors]

conceal him from the multitudes who flocked to him from all quarters, bringing with them their sick and diseased; and his heavenly goodness healed them all. Nor would the disciples have been offended at this mild and peaceable conduct of their master, had they attentively considered the prophecy of Isaiah, where this peaceable disposition is particularly insisted on as eminently distinguishing the character of the Messiah. Behold my servant whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax he shall not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust." Matt. xii. 12, &c.

The small variations between this prophecy, as quoted by St. Matthew, and the original in the book of Isaiah, are of no consequence, as the sense is the same; and here it may be worthy of remark, that this prophecy describes the publication of the Christian religion by JESUS CHRIST, vastly different from that of the Jewish religion by Moses. The law of Moses


was published with thunder and fire, and the strongest circumstances of terror from mount Sinai, and only extended to the single nation of the Is raelites the doctrine of salvation, as published by the Messiah, was mild, peaceable, and gentle, and was extended to every nation and people under heaven. Accordingly, our Lord, by retiring to Galilee, fulfilled the first part of this famous prophecy, "He shall shew judgment to the Gentiles ;" for we are informed by the Evangelist that great multitudes came to him from beyond Jordan, and from Syria, and from the countries about Tyre and Sidon.

While our Lord remained in Galilee, there was brought unto him a blind and dumb man, possessed with a devil; but he, with a single word, cast out the evil spirit, and immediately restored to the poor man the noble faculties of sight and speech. An event so surprising, so miraculous, and so suddenly wrought, could not fail of exciting the astonishment of the beholders; and the honest plain hearted part of the nation were inclined to believe. But the Pharisees, who had followed him from Jerusalem with the basest intentions, were filled with the most tormenting envy at seeing him perform such surprising miracles, and burning with all the rage of disappointed malice, contrary to all the rules of reason and the conviction of their own minds, impudently and wickedly ascribed his miracles to the power of the devil: an affirmation so horrid, abominable; and desperately wicked, could not escape the notice, or fail of exciting the sharp rebukes of the Son of God; who addressing himself both to his enemies and the surrounding multitudes, demonstrated the absurdity and impossibility of such a conclusion from the common affairs of life. ་་ Every kingdom" said the blessed JESUS, "divided against itself is brought to desolation: and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: and if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself: how then shall his kingdom stand ?" How foolish and ridiculous is it to suppose that the devil would act against himself, and undermine the foundations of his own kingdom! To which our great Redeemer thought fit to add, "If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then is the kingdom of God come unto you." You did not impute the miracles of your prophets to Beelzebub, but received them on the evidence of these miracles as the messengers of God: but ye reject me, who work greater and more numerous miracles than they, and impute them to the power of the devil. Is this conduct consistent; or is it possible to reconcile it to reason or common sense? These prophets therefore shall be your judges; and they shall condemn you. But if it is true, that I cast out devils by the Almighty Power and Spirit of God, it follows, that the kingdom of God ↓

so long expected, and ardently desired, is going to be established amongst you. Is not the horrid impudence of this blasphemy of yours really aston ishing! But, great as your crime is, it may yet be forgiven; because fuller and more manifest evidences of the truth of my mission, may hereafter convince you of your wickedness, and excite you to believe; and the time is coming when the Son of man shall be raised from the dead, and the gift of miracles by the power of the Holy Ghost will be bestowed on almost every believer. The nature of the Messiah's kingdom will be more fully explained, and such proofs given, as if attended to, will be abundantly sufficient to remove your prejudices and overcome your obstinacy and prevailing unbelief. But if you then shut your eyes, and speak evil against the Holy Ghost, contrary to the conviction of your minds, maliciously as eribing the miracles wrought by his power, and his extraordinary gifts, to proceed from the prince of darkness, you have wilfully shut your eyes against the light; you have dared to insult the eternal God to his face; you have resisted, wilfully resisted, the last means which he will use to convince you: & you never will be forgiven, but shall surely fall under the fierce. "Wherefore ness of his wrath, both in this world & that which is to come.

say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: But the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiv en him but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come."

This awful and alarming denunciation against the blasphemy of the HoGhost, was probably laid down by our Saviour at this time, to apprise the Pharisees of their danger, to awaken them to a sense of their obstinate and envious opposition of the truth, and make them afraid of the consequence if they presisted in such detestable calumnies, when their own hearts told them, that they had no foundation on reason, but what flowed from malice and resentment: but the most powerful arguments, or the most awful threatenings, had no effect on this obstinate and perverse race of mortals, who sarcastically answered, "Master we would see a sign from thee." What astonishing stupidity! Had he not, the moment before, cast out a devil, and restored the faculties of sight and speech to the blind and dumb! Had not he cleansed lepers, raised the dead, and rebuked the tempestuous winds, and raging waves of the sea! Were not these signs sufficient to have convinced the most obstinate and bigotted mortal! What therefore could these stubborn doctors of the law require! Well might the great Saviour of the world call them "a wicked and adulterous generation;" for certainly they could justly pretend to no part of the faith and piety of their great father Abraham; he believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness: but they, by their malicious obstinacy, and determined unbelief, added sin to sin and plunged themselves into the depth of iniquity and wickedness. Persons of such perverse dispositions, and incorrigible tempers, merited no indulgence; and, therefore, our great Redeemer told them, that no sign should be given, but that of the prophet Jonab, who, by laying three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, was a type of the Son of God, who should continue three days and three nights in the chambers of the grave.

Our Lord then proceeded to observe, that the obstinacy, perverseness, and wickedness of that generation, was greater than that of the most barbarous, ignorant, and idolatrous nations, who would rise in judgment with them and condemn them. The people of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah; and the queen of the south took a long journey to behold the wisdom of Solomon: but the obstinate wicked, and unbelieving Jews would not repent, at the preaching, and repeated warnings of the Son of God, nor learn wisdom from the Eternal Fountain of Wisdom itself.

Our Lord then concluded his discourse with a parable, which shewed the great danger of wilfully opposing & resisting the truth, as such practices.

tend to make men habitually and desperately wicked, and, in every respect, more obdurate and abandoned than defore.

During this dispute with the rulers of Israel, JEsUs was informed, that his mother and his kinsman waited without, desiring an interview with him; upon which, with a look of the tenderest affection, he stretched out his hand towards his disciples, and said, "Behold my mother and my brethren! for whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother," Matt. xii. 49, 50. These remarkable words ought to be received with the warmest gratitude, and the most exalted joy, by every christian; since from this divine declaration, it may be learnt, that a faith in CHRIST, which works by love, and produces a conformity to the precepts of the gospel, gives the believer a claim to the high title of a Son of the Most High, and a near relation to his dear Redeemer: by this divine principle, the believer lays hold on the blessings and privileges, which belong to his spiritual birth, he claims a kindred to the skies, he becomes acquainted with his union with the Divine Nature, and can stand before the throne of the Eternal God, and call him his Father.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


Jesus delivers several Parables from a Ship, to the Multitudes that were standing on Shore: He receives a second Visit from his relations: At Evening he retires to Capernaum, and delivers more Parables to his Disciples: Afterwards he returns to Nazareth, his own City, and sends his Apostles to preach about that Country: He then repairs to the Desart of Bethsada and provides a miraculous Repast far the whole Multitude.

THE public debate in which Jesus was engaged with the Pharisees, and the miracles which was the occasion of it, brought together such a vast concourse of people. that, for the greater facility of instructiug them, our great Redeemer repaired to the sea side. The crowd pressed so close about him, that he was incommoded in his office of speaking, and for the greater conveniency, he entered a ship, and put off to some small distance from the shore, while the attentive multitudes remained on dry land: being thus conveniently accommodated for public speaking, our divine Instructor proceeded to lay down several precepts of the utmost importance, which he thought proper to introduce in the parabolical style. This was a mode of instruction very common in the oriental nations, and it was the general method of the old prophets, John the Baptist and our blessed Savjour, to inculcate divine and moral truths, in the beautiful method of illusion and fable; and some times so to contrive the discourse, that it had an immediate reference to those objects, which at that very time presented themselves to the view of the audience. This method of instructing was. on several accounts, particularly adapted to the designs of divine conduct, and the circumstances of the Jewish nation, at the time of the Messiah's appearance. Similitudes of this kind, are the most easy and simple methods of teaching; they are best accomodated to the apprehensions of the ignorant and unlearned, and are very easy to be understood, remembered, and applied at the same time, they are the finest veil for mysteries, and the best medium for concealing from the proud and obstinate, those truths which their perverseness and infidelity render them unworthy of having more clearly revealed.


These observations seem to be alluded to by our great Redeemer himself, when his disciples asked, why he taught the people in parables? Because," said he, it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; but to them it is not given: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away, even that he bath. Therefore speak I unto them in parables; because in seeing they see not: and in hearing they hear not, neither do they understand," Matt. xiii. 11, &c. The beloved disciples, whom our Redeemer, by his divine power had made of an humble, teachable disposition, whose minds, by an heavenly influence, were become docile, apt to learn, and open to instruction, were thus addressed by the divine Instructor; and he gives them to understand, that it would be no advantage to them, nor to any that sincerely desired to be instructed, and attended on him in humility of heart, that the truths he delivered were clothed in parables; for such persons would carefully consider his words, and resort to him for their explanation: and the truths themselves, clothed in this beautiful veil, would be more attractive to the humble inquiring mind; and, when carefully considered, appear plain, simple, and easy to be understood.

But the proud, self-conceited Scribes and Pharisees, were so blinded by their prejudices, that they would not give themselves time to consider, but would heartily despise such methods of teaching, and condemn, as low and contemptible, the plain allusions in which the divine truths were represented. Our great Redeemer did not alter his manner of teaching, for their sakes, but dressed the great truth of the gospel in such metaphorical robes as they did heartily despise, and which would for ever cenceal them from persons of their temper and conduct. Nor need it be wondered at, the blessed JESUS further observed: that he took this method with this sort of men; for it had been prophesied of him, that he should open his mouth in parables, and utter things which had been kept secret from the foundation of the world." And concerning the pride, obstinacy, perverseness, and infidelity of the rulers of the Jews, Isaiah had long ago prophesied to them, that, by hearing ye shall hear, and not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: for this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them."

There is some little variation between the words, as quoted by our Savjour, and those found in the prophecy of Isaiah, but the meaning is the same in each, and the sense manifestly is, that the Jewish nation should hear the doctrines of the gospel, but not understand them: and see the miracles wrought in n confirmation of the truth of those doctrines but not perceive them to be wrought by the power of God: not because the eviden ces produced by our great Redeemer, were insufficient to convince a judicious and impartial inquirer after truth; but because the corruption and depravity of the hearts of the proud Pharasees, would not suffer them to examine & weigh these evidences; for the sins of that people had hardened their hearts, their pride and vanity had shut their ears, and their hypocrisy and bigotted adherence to tradition, and forced interpretations of the law, had closed their eyes; so that the bright rays of divine truth could not shine upon their dark minds, nor the powerful voice of heavenly wisdom, awaken their attention, or command their assent.

Such were the reasons assigned by our great Redeemer, for his teaching the people in parables; and then he proceeded to remind his disciples of the great privileges they enjoyed, in having the opportunity of learning, from his heavenly lips, those things which the prophets of old so earnestly desired to know and understand: " But blessed," said he," are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear: for verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye

« السابقةمتابعة »