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CHAPTER XXIII.

Jesus remarks the Ignorance and jos. of the Jews, in not discerning the Times; and sheweth the Danger of neglecting the Means of Reconciliation offered them: He sheweth that temporal calamities are no sure Signs of Sinfulness, but that others should take warning by them, and repent : He delivers the Parable of the Fig-Tree that was ordered to be cut down for being fruitless : He healeth a JPoman that had been long bowed together, and putteth the hypocritical Ruler of the Synagogue to silence. CHRIST being asked of the number of the Saved, eachorteth to strive to enter in at the straight Gate : He is warned to leave the Dominions of Herod, but will not be diverted from his Course through Fear; and lamenteth over the approaching Desolation of Jerusalem : He healeth the ropsy on the Sabbath, and justifieth his doing so: He recommendeth Humility, and Hospitality towards the Poor: And delivers the Parable of the MarriageSupper, and of the Guests, who making excuses, were eaccluded, and their Rooms filled by others.

H AVING concluded his instructions to his disciples, our Lord then addressed the multitude, and remarked the prevailing infidelity of the Jewish nation, and observed, that the evidences of his being the Mes: siah, were clearer and stronger than those marks in the sky, which denominated fair or rainy weather to be approaching; and though the people were very accute and sagacious in the one, they were unaccountably blind and undiscerning in the other: “When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time 2

But he proceedeth to let them know, that their blind. ness, obstinacy, and rebellion, should be severely punished, and that he would come in as unexpected a manner, as a thief cometh in the night: he therefore exhorted them to a speedy reformation, telling them that they ought to consider well what way their peace was to be expected, and diligently attend to those things which would preserve them from the consequences of their rebellion. “When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him ; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thce to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison: I tell thee thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.” -

Some of his hearers thought proper to confirm this doctrine, by giving what they thought an example of it; There were present at that season, some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices ; thinking that these persons had been guilty of some extraordinary crime for which providence had permitted this dreadful punishment to besal them; but our blessed Saviour expressly told them, that they were much mistaken in this conclusion, for this deplorable calamity was no indication that these Galileans were greater sinners than their countrymen. At the same time, he exhorted them to improve such instances of calamity and misery, as incitements to their own repentance, assuring them that if they neglected so just and necessary a work, they should all perish: And Jesus answering, said unto them. Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Gali. leans, because they suffered such things # I tell you, .Nay: but, except you repent, yeshall all likewise perish.

He further illustrated this doctrine, by remarking, that this way of interpreting the dispensations of providence, would lead them to crroncous conclusions, whenever they heard of unexpected and dreadful evils falling on the sons of men; and instanced the case of the eighteen persons on whom the tower of Siloam fell, and crushed them to pieces: Or, said he, those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam sell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem * I tell you, Nay: but eccept you repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Our Lord also endeavoured to rouse them to the consideration of their state, by the parable of the fig-tree, which the master of the vineyard, after finding it three years barren, ordered to be destroyed, but at the earn. est request of the dresser of the vineyard, it was spared one year longer: A certain man, said he, had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none; cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground 3 And he answering, said unto him, lord, let it alone this year also, till I dig about it, and dung it : and if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. -

By this parable, our Lord represented the goodness, and forbearance of his Almighty Father, manifested to. wards the Jewish nation, where his Son had now been about three years, preaching the kingdom of God; and though they might be justly destroyed for their obstinacy and perverseness, yet the awful stroke was delayed, and space was given them for repentance: but he gave them a strong intimation, in this parable, that if they persisted, they must expect that vengeance will not al. ways sleep, but after all the divine forbearance had been abused, would awake to their sudden and dreadful destruction.

When our Lord was teaching in one of the synagogues in Perea, on the Sabbath day, he observed a woman, who, for the space of eighteen years, had not been

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able to stand upright; a person labouring under so

dreadful a disorder could not fail of exciting the com

passion of the benevolent Saviour of sinners, he beheld this affecting object with pity, and he removed her complaint; she who came to the synagogue bowed down to the ground with an infirmity, returned to her house upright, being, by the all-powerful Son of God, restored to perfect health. This benevolent action, which surely deserved the thanks of the whole congregation, so highly offended the master of the synagogue, that he openly testified his displeasure, and reproved the people, and represented them as Sabbath-breakers, because they came that day to be healed: There are sic days, said this surly, selfconceited ruler to the people, in which men bught to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on

the Sabbath-day.

But our Lord soon silenced this self-conceited Pharisee, by observing that he had not deviated from their own avowed practice : they made no scruple of loosing their cattle, and leading them to the water on the Sabbath-day, because the mercy of the action sufficiently justified them for performing it; and surely his action of loosing, by a single word, a woman, a rational creature, a daughter of Abraham, who had been bound by an incurable distemper, the tedious space of eighteen years, was abundantly justified; nor could this bigoted ruler have thought otherwise, had not his reason been blinded by his superstition. Such was the sentiment of the Son of God, who answered him with this severe rebuke, ‘Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the Sobbath, loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering 2 And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath-day? And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all

the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him. * * From this instance we may remark the evil effects of superstition and a bigoted attachment to customs and ceremonies, which have no foundation in reason nor the revealed will of God; these pernicious principles oppose the use of the faculties, root compassion out of the heart, and destroy the feelings of humanity.

Our Lord having silenced the proud ruler of the synagogue, and received the acclamations and applauses of the people, reflected with pleasure on the truth, reason, and divine power from above, which support his kingdom; and, on this occasion, he repeated the parables of the grain of mustard-seed, and the leaven, to shew the future success of the gospel, and the power and influence of his religion on the hearts and lives of men, and its rapid progress through the world, notwithstanding the opposition of the great men of the earth, and the fury of the unthinking multitude.

Our Lord having thus sown the seeds of the gospel in the country of Perea, crossed Jordan, and proceeded by slow and short stages towards Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in every village, and publishing the gladtidings of salvation to the inhabitants of the countries he passed through.

While he was thus prosecuting the great work of instructing mankind, one of the persons who accompanied him, inquired, ‘Lord, are there few that be saved.” Probably the person who proposed this question, had heard our Lord describe the success of the gospel, by the parables of the mustard-seed, and the leaven; and had no further views of the kingdom of the Messiah, than the setting up a temporal dominion. These notions were entertained by the Jews in general, and induced them to conclude, that CHRIST hereby meant so unore than a temporal salvation. JEsus, to convince

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