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support. This method was particularly suited to that order of people to whom the truths of the Gospel were originally preached, the poorer and more ignorant classes of society; and it is this form of doctrine, so frequent in the Sacred Writings, which, notwithstanding the occasional obscurity arising from a reference to peculiar customs, and from obsolete modes of expression, still adapts them so remarkably to the taste and the understanding of the multitude.
It was not often, however, that our Saviour delivered his precepts in any thing like a prepared and set form. The most noted instance of the kind is that beautiful and comprehensive view of Christian duty, given us by St Matthew, which is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount. His more usual method was, to take occasion from some incident in the common intercourse of life, to ex
plain to his followers some one or other of those enlarged views of Duty which were so much above the common grovelling notions of his countrymen; and it is in this unostentatious guise that we still gather, in the course of his history, most of those pure and perfect principles to which nothing, in any respect equal, can be found in the most refined Schools of Human Philosophy. At other times, he veiled instruction under the garb of some simple allegory or story; and in this shape, so well adapted likewise to a rude period of Society, and so interesting still, from the contrast between the loftiness of the truths thus delivered, and the homeliness of the dress in which they are disguised, many, as you well know, of the most important precepts of the Gospel are conveyed.
In the present Lecture, an opportunity is afforded me of illustrating a few of
those great truths unfolded by our Lord, as they arose naturally from the incidents which befel him ;-in the following one, I shall have occasion to examine some of his more remarkable Parables.
In the verse immediately following the text, we find him adding to his disciples a man of the name of Levi, taken from that class of people who were particularly odious to the Jews, the tax-gatherers appointed by the Roman government. We may, indeed, suppose, that these men were frequently guilty of acts of cruelty and injustice; yet our Saviour seems always to have looked with much more indulgence upon those vices into which men were betrayed by the peculiarities of their situation, than upon those which argued a hardened and vitiated heart, The Publicans, therefore, who, in the Jewish stile, are constantly classed with sinners, he seems always to have had
much satisfaction in representing as infinitely more amiable than the proud Doctors of the Law, who were so entirely satisfied with themselves, and all their own performances. In the present instance, mankind have been greatly benefited by the choice made of the publican Levi, as we are informed that he was the same individual who, under the name of Matthew, has left the most important, perhaps, of all the narratives of his Master's history.
When he went into the house of this new convert, and sat down at meat with him and his friends, the ill-natured and illiberal spirit of the Jewish teachers, the Scribes and Pharisees, was immediately excited." How is it," they said to his disciples," that he eateth and drinketh "with publicans and sinners ?" This gave occasion to the observation which follows, and which contains, in a few words, so
much of the genuine spirit of Christianity. "When Jesus heard it, he saith un
"to them, They that be whole have no "need of the physician, but they that "are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." It may, indeed, be affirmed, that, in these words, the most distinguishing feature of the Gospel is brought before us. The great object of our Saviour's coming into the world was, that he might call "sinners to repentance." Other objects, no doubt, he had in view. He came to elevate the hopes of the righteous, "to bring life and immortality to
light," and to raise, in consequence of these discoveries, the moral character of mankind. He came likewise to comfort man under the afflictions of his present condition, and to shew him, that the servant of God can only be "made perfect by suffering."