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Nor was the success which attended the attempts of these weak and despised instruments, wanting to prove the divine original of the doctrine they taught ; while the tenets of the philosophers were confined to their respective schools, the glorious gospel spread over the world, and was received in every country, and by men of every station; it was received by the bulk of mankind, with the highest satisfaction, and the sublimest joy; as something necessary to their supreme good, which hitherto they had been seeking in vain. It was therefore, the highest wisdom which conducted the propagation of the gospel, and made use of such low and contemptible persons; for hence, it plainly appeared, that these noble truths were not of human invention, but were the production of lnfinite Wisdom, and were first advanced, and are still supported, by the mighty power of God. After our great Redeemer had appointed his twelve apostles, he came down from the mountain, and was joyfully received by the multitudes of fo. who were waiting for him in the plain: and such was the heaveny virtue which attended and surrounded him, that whoever touched the border of his garment, was healed of his disease. This is sufficient to account for the great number of people which daily followed this illustrious person, who erowded around him, wherever he went, and accompanied him to the remotest parts of the wilderness of Judea ; nor was it only the vulgar and necessitous that pursued our Redeemer's steps wheresoever he went, but persons of high rank and character, came from the remotest parts to converse with them, hear his divine doctrine, and be spectators of his wonderous works, and partake of the benefits resulting from them. After healing the sick amongst the multitude, he proceeded to instruct them, and delivered a divine discourse, in substance nearly the same as that which he before preached from the mountain: the chief differance in these discourses, is the threatenings which are here denounced against particular sinners, whereas the discourse recorded by St. Matthew, contains only blessings. It may not be amiss, briefly to consider these maledictions, as a large paraphrase hath been given on the former sermon. “Wo unto you that are rich,” said our exalted Saviour, “for you have received your consolation.” Riches in this world, are no evidence of the love of God, but are frequently bestowed on the worst of men; they are not bestowed upon any as a reward for superior degrees of moral goodness, but are distributed by the great Governor of the universe, so as to answer the wise ends of his government, and bring about his great designs: they have no tendency to promote the best interest of man, but are frequently made use of by the worst of men, to the worst of purposes, and enable then to be more extensively and desperately wicked: they are frequently a snare to the truly religious, and have a natural tendency to pervert the affections, and corrupt the heart. It requires great grace to keep them from degrading the soul, and generating a low, mean, worldly spirit; for wherever the natural course and tendency of riches prevail, it will always remain an eternal truth, “that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” “Wo unto you that laugh, for ye shall mourn and weep.” It is not a joyful, cheerful, thankful, frame of spirit, which our Lord here exclaims against, but a foolish, trifling, levity of mind. The gospel of CHR1st, is particularly calculated to inspire a constant cheerfulness of temper, and Christians are commanded always to rejoice; the assurance they have of reconciliation with God, the lively hope of everlasting life, the constant pleasure which they find in communion with God, and the contemplation on heavenly things, tend to fill the mind with solid satisfaction and substantial joy. This joy will be constantly increasing, as christians advance in divine life, and will be fully completed in the eternal world : but those giddy, gay sallies of mirth, and the thoughtless dissipation of mind which arises from an immoderate love of vain amusement and sensual pleasure, that gives no
time for consideration, but scatters serious thoughts, and creates an utter aversion to sober reflection, will soon lead the soul into such a labyrinth of wretchedness and wo, that they shall then mourn and weep. This will certainly be their lot in this world, when their vain delusive gratifications can please no more ; and it will eternally be their lot, when they will be deprived of every gleam of hope and comfort, & consigned to the dark regions of sorrow and despair, “where will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” But our great Redeemer added, “ Wo unto you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers of the false prophets.” This malediction of our blessed Saviour, is denounced against those teachers who, for fear of offending men, shall keep back the truth of God, and fear to proclaim the unpopular and humbling truths of the gospel, which are so mortifying to human pride; and by flattering the vices, and humouring the pride and passions of men, shall gain their commendation and applause. Such teachers as these, are compared to the false prophets of old, who, by humouring the vanity and flattering the pride of princes and great men, were more caressed and attended to than the true prophets of God. When our great Redeemer had finished, he departed to Capernaum,and was met by some messengers from a centurion, who desired him to come and heal a servant whom he highly esteemed, that was sick, and in danger of death. This centurion, from the character given him by the evangelists, seems to have been a proselyte to the Jewish religion. The inhabitants of Capernaum spake mueh in his favour, and strongly recommended his case ; for they said, "that “ he was a hover of their naticn, and had built them a synagogue.” The great Saviour of mankind who went about doing good, graciously attended to the petition, and readily accompanied the messengers ; but before he arrived at the house, he was met by a party of the centurion's friends, who expressed the high conception which that officer had of the divine power of our great Redeemer, and desired he would not give himself the trouble of a personal attendance, as his word would be abundantly sufficient to accomplish the cure. Our Lord was pleased with the message, and turning to the spectators, said, “I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel,” Luke vii. 9. The persons having delivered their message, returned to the centurion's house, and found the sick person perfectly recovered. There are several circumstances attending this miracle, and that related by St. Matthew, proves that this centurion was not the same person. The centurion mentioned by St. Matthew, attended on Christ in person ; him whose case is last related: presented his petition by the elders of Capernaum. It does not appear that the former centurion was a proselyte of the Jewish religion ; but we find a very high character given of the latter: these and several other particulars which might have been mentioned, prove that this miracle ought to be cousidered separate from the former. This miracle being performed, our Lord repaired to the house of Peter, to eat bread; the place of his residence could not be concealed; great multitudes surrounded the house ; some no doubt, desiring to behold the wonders which he wrought, and others, to be partakers of the benefits resulting from them; they continued there some time, advancing their respective claims, in a tumultuous manner, and it was with difficulty they were made to disperse. -
c H A P T E R xiv.
Christ retires to Nain, a City of Galilee, where he raises a Widow's only Son from the Dead: He receives Messengers from John the Baptist, and gives his Testimony concerning him: After which he dines with
, Simon the Leper, where he is anointed by Mary, whose affection he acknowledges and rewards.
WHILE the apostles were proceeding through the cities of Judea, executing the commission of their Divine Master, our great Redeemer was carrying on the work of his mission in Galilee; and when they had returned to our Lord, they accompanied him and his disciples to Nain, a city near mount Tabor, where he was followed by a great multitude of people.-On their approaching the gate of the city, a scene of the most affecting affliction and distress presented itself to their view; “Behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.” What an affecting scene was this, and how was the affliction and distress of the mournful parent heightened by every circumstance which could make it the more bitter P A young man cut down, probably in his prime; and followed to the grave by his weeping parent. With slow and solemn steps, scarce able to bear up under the load of her woes, the mourning matron follows the dead to interment, attended by her affected friends and neighbours, who had strove in vain to comfort her for the loss of her son ; for the young man was “the only son of his mother,” on whom perhaps she depended for support; and to render her affliction to the last degree heavy and insupportable, “she was a widow.” With tender pity our great Redeemer beheld this daughter of affliction, and immediately exerted his divine power for her relief. There was no need of any intercessor to prevail with our blessed Jesus to attend to such a case as this; his own compassion was sufficient to excite him to relieve her. The evangelist informs us, that “when the Lord saw her he had compassion on her,” and gently approaching, he forbid her to weep. But so great was her loss that it had opened all the sluices of sorrow, & it was in vain to forbid her tears. Her husband was no more, and now she had lost her only son, the surviving image of his departed father, and the last hope of her afflicted soul. What comfort in the ordinary course of nature could be administered to this mournful widow 2 She had lost her husband ; she had lost her son. What distress could be more overwhelming 2 What case could be more deplorable 2 And how natural it is to suppose that she should “refuse to be comforted ;” and to determine to “go down to the grave with mourning.” Our Lord well knew the weight of her affliction and the heavy pressure of her present grief, and therefore used no arguments to comfort her ; but approaching the corps, he “touched the bier.” The funeral procession immediately stood still, and the whole train in silent expectation awaited the event: when that powerful voice, which one day the dead, shall hear, and they that hear shall live, soon uttered these words “young man, 1 say to thee, arise :” no sooner had our great Redeemer spoke, but the joyful event followed: “he that was dead sat up, and began to speak, and he restored him to his mother.” With what emotions of joy must we suppose this mournful mother would receive her only son thus unexpectedly rescued from the cold arms of death ! What a flood of tenderness would burst upon the soul, and with what gratitude and joy would she behold his great deliverer, who did not make any shew of this stupendous miracle amongst the multitude of his followers and the attendants on the funeral, but immediately delivered the revived young man to his late afflicted, but now wondering and rejoicing mother, as a testimony that this great work was wrought in compassion to her distress. The surrounding multitudes beheld this wonderful event with a mixture of astonishment, pleasure, holy awe, and fear; “and they glorified God, saying, that a great prophet is risen amongst us, and that God hath visited his people.” If we take a review of this miracle, we may observe that it is liable to no objection, and abundantly proves the exertion of divine power. It is to be observed that it was wrought in the open fields amongst a vast number of spectators. A great number of the j of the city attended the funeral; they all bewailed the disconsolate state of the afflicted widow, and had the opportunity of being satisfied that the youth was really dead. “The powerful word which called the dead man to life was delivered in an audible voice before all the company; and this was done at the gate of the city, a place of general resort; every one had the opportunity of satisfying themselves that the young man was really restored to life. There was no possibility of deception, nor room for objections of any kind; and this miracle, joined with the rest wrought by the same divine person, abundantly proves that he was the Son of God, and the Saviour of sinners. The fame of the wonderful works which Jesus constantly performed, was rapidly proclaimed through the various cities of Judea, and by the disciples of John the Baptist carried to their master. This prophet, as we before related, was cast into prison by Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee. The cause of his imprisonment was the offence which that prince had taken at his boldly and freely blaming his conduct respecting his incestuous connexion with the princes Herodias. (John had now been confined above a year in prison, and as he was fully convinced that Christ was really the Messiah, and no doubt having imbibed the national expectation of the Jews, that the Messiah would set up a temporal kingdom, he perceived that things did not answer his expectation: for, doubtless, he apprehended that before this time CHR 1st would have manifested himself, and made some advances towards, his taking the reins of government. He therefore sent two of his disciples to our great Redeemer, with this question, “Art thou he that should come, or look we for another?” We are not to suppose by this inquiry, that John entertained any hesitation or doubt, whether Citrist was the true Messiah, or not; for it is to be observed, that throughout the whole course of his ministry, he had borne a regular and ample testimony to the truth of his divine mission: he had been convinced by a particular revelation from heaven, and by the descent of the Holy Ghost in a visible form at CHRist's baptism, that he was that divine person who was to come to be the Saviour of Israel; and accordingly he made it his constant care to dispose the Jews in general, and his own disciples in particular, to receive and reverence him as the Messiah, bearing witness concerning him that he was superior to himself, and holding him up to view as “ the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.” It cannot therefore be supposed, as before observed, that the Baptist entertained any scruples in his mind concerning our Lord's divinity; but his design seems to be to lead his disciples into an acquaintance with our great Redeemer, that by beholding his miracles, and hearing his divine conversation, their minds might be prepared to receive him ; for it is not improbable to suppose, that the prophet John might have some expectations of his own approaching death. Nor was the conviction of his disciples, perhaps, the only view which the prophet had in sending this message to our great Redeemer; it is to be supposed that, like the rest of his countrymen, he expected the Messiah to set up a temporal kingdom. , Nor is the supposition derogatory to the digmity of so great a prophet, since we are informed, that though John was “a prophet and more than a prophet, the least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he,” the meanest preacher of the everlasting gospel is greater than the Baptist, because he had the opportunity of being informed of the spiritual nature of Christ's kingdom. As then, it is to be supposed, that great forerunner of our Redeemer ardently desired, and
impatiently expected the appearance of his kingdom; and as the blessed
ners!” “But,” said our great Redeemer, “wisdom is justified of her children.”