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\1 vr. i\. 1 1—17. Luke viii. 41—56. Mat. ix. 27— 38. x. 1—4. Iv our last lecture on the life of our Saviour, you 3ieard him calling Matthew from the receipt of custom, and you beheld this publican cheerfully relinquishing the profits of his office, in order to become a follower of Jesus. You saw him, anxious that his brother-publicans should hear the words of grace and mercy, which fell from the lips of the Redeemer, inviting them to a festival, which he honoured with his presence. Your hearts were moved at the tender and conclusive vindication of his conduct, which Jesus presented, when the haughty and cruel pharisees murmured that he associated with such persons: • ; They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
LIFE OF CHRIST. 239 Let us now proceed with the history. The pharisees, while they " neglected the weightier matters of the law," while they violated the rules of justice, and were insensible to the claims of mercy, were rigorously austere in their external deportment. In addition to those fasts, which were of divine institution, they received many from tradition, and established some by their own authority. So much did their religion consist in them, that we hear one of them ascribing a high degree of merit to himself for their observance, and arrogantly boasting, even to God, of his scrupulosity in fasting twice every week.
(Luke xviii. 12.) And as the life of John the Baptist was austere and abstemious, in correspondence with the nature of his ministry, so his disciples multiplied fasts, in imitation of their master, and of the custom of the pharisees. These two very different classes of men agreed in inquiring of the Saviour, why he did not impose the same austere discipline upon his disciples which they observed. " Why do the disciples of John, and of the pharisees fast oft ; but thy disciples fast not f n To this question Jesus replied, " Can the children of the bridechamber fast while the bridegroom is with them f n There are seasons and occasions suited to different duties. I am, as John himself has declared concerning me, the spiritual bridegroom, to whom the church is espoused. These, my disciples, are the children of the bride-chamber, the guests of the marriage-feast. It would be unreasonable to require mourning and tears during the festivity of a nuptial feast. It would be equally improper for these, my disciples, to enter upon a course of rigorous abstinence while I am with them, and to fast on these joyful days. But envy them not. They have many afflictions to under-
240 - SERMO XLV11I. go, many trials to endure. In a little time I shall leave them, and then they will have occasion for solemn fasting and humiliation. " But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.'''' To mingle mourning and rejoicing together, adds the Saviour, to fast while they enjoy my immediate presence, would be as incongruous as to put a new piece of cloth into an old garment.
And, finally, he bids them remember, that it is necessary not to discourage the weak, by imposing upon them duties that are too burdensome ; that infant virtue must not immediately be put to the greatest trials, lest it should be killed by the severity of the exercise. As new wine would burst the leathern bottles — (for in the east the bottles were anciently made of leather, or goats' skins,) — as new wine would burst the leathern bottles, which by use and age are become too weak to resist the fermentation, and both the wine and the bottles would perish, so will both the precepts which we inculcate, and the persons whom we address, be in danger of perishing, if we neglect to accommodate our directions to the strength of those who receive them. " either do men put new wine into old bottles, else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish. Bui they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved." My brethren, this incident in the life of our Saviour should teach us to judge others ivith candour. We are too apt to make our own experiences and conduct the precise rule for all else, and to condemn them as enthusiasts, if they exceed, or as lukewarm, if they fall short of the standard which we have raised. Even sincere persons may sometimes be found united with the pharisees in reproaching the chil-
LIFE OF CHRIST. 24 J dren of God, and condemning them, because their sentiments and conduct do not in every respect accord with their own. But it is not our province, neither are we competent to judge others. The disciples of John might do right in fasting often, and yet the disciples of Jesus not do wrong in forbearing to fast. There are many things belonging to the situations of individuals of which God alone can judge.
We must, therefore, leave every man to " stand or fall to his own master,*' and study to approve ourselves to God. While Jesus was thus defending his disciples, Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, (probably of Capernaum) came to him, supplicating his aid. His only daughter, who had arrived at the interesting age of twelve years, was apparently at the point of death. Having heard of, and perhaps witnessed some of our Lord's miracles, he earnestly requested him to come and restore her health. Jesus never rejected the petitions of the unhappy. He immediately departed with Jairus, but before they reached the house, the servants brought tidings that the child was dead. " Thy daughter is dead ; trouble not the Master." What a stroke was this to the heart of Jairus ! Whilst he hung over the sick bed of his child, while he observed her gradual descent to the tomb, and marked the inefficacy of all human remedies, he had been full of apprehension and sorrow ! But when his trouble had driven him to Jesus, when the compassionate Saviour, before whom disease and pain had so often fled, consented to accompany him, doubtless he was inspired with the firmest hope, with the fullest assurance, that his child would be rescued from the tomb, and restored again to his affectionate vol. it. :n
242 SERMO XLVIII. bosom. Alas ! must he not now abandon these confident, these pleasing expectations? How often has it been thus with thee, believer ! Affliction has driven thee to Christ. But, although thou hast applied to him, the storm has still appeared to gather thicker around thee. Difficulties have so increased,
that thy hopes have been almost blasted. Thou hast cried for pardon, and found an increased sense of guilt. Thou hast prayed for deliverance from corruption or temptation, and hast experienced the assaults of Satan more violent than ever; thou hast been almost ready to conclude that God has rejected thy prayer, and shut up his tender mercies. What is to be done in such a situation ? Imitate Jairus. Like him, " hope against hope." Like him. regard this accumulated trouble as a renewed exercise and trial of thy faith. It was faith which led this ruler to Christ ; and when his case seemed desperate, he did not abandon his hope. It is probable, indeed, that our Lord might perceive some rising apprehension in his mind. But he instantly sustained him with that encouraging address, " Fear not." Arrived at his house, our Lord reproved the excessive lamentation of the mourners ; and entering with the parents and three favoured disciples into the chamber of the deceased, he "took her by the hand, and said unto her, Maid, arise." Death listened to the voice of the Lord of life, and dropped the chains with which his prey was bound. The soul, at the command of the God of spirits, re-animated the lifeless body ; and the child sprang instantly from the couch of dissolution, and arose in perfect health. Who can describe, who can even conceive, the joy of the happy parents ; the fervour with which they poured forth their thanksgivings to God ; the
LIFE OP CHRIST. 243 thankfulness to Jesus which swelled their hearts? Christian parents, from whose reluctant bosoms death has torn a darling infant, these raptures are reserved for you. This same Redeemer, who here said, " Maid, arise," shall hereafter, with equal au-
thority and efficacy, say, ." Arise, ye dead." Then this beloved, this lamented child, over whose tomb you have wept, shall again fly to your embraces, and you shall exultingly shout, " Our child was dead, but is alive again ; was lost, but is found." The Evangelist relates another miraculous cure, performed by Jesus as he was going to the house of Jairus. A woman, who for twelve years had laboured under a disorder which had baffled all the power of medicine, and who was afflicted with the pains of poverty, as well as the oppression of disease, had heard of the benevolence and power of the Lord, and hoped to find relief from him. Humble and modest, she did not dare to address him; yet, full of faith, she was persuaded that if she could only touch him, she should be healed. She therefore came privately behind him, and touched the hem of his garment, and was instantly cured. Her faith was great, and the honour that was conferred upon her was proportionable to it. Jesus, who by his voluntary influence had restored her to health, turned himself around, publicly commended her faith, confirmed her cure, and dismissed her with the endearing appellation of daughter. Thus will he ever testify his love to all who rely on him ; thus will he reward those who place their confidence in him. Let us then make our way to him through all difficulties and obstructions ; let us stretch out our hands to him with humble boldness
244 SERMO XLV1I1. and confidence : virtue will surely proceed from him to heal our souls. What a life was that of Jesus ! How unwearied
his benevolence, how incessant the exercise of his compassion! Truly does the apostle say of him, " He went about doing good." As we trace his history, one miracle of mercy succeeds to another. Scarcely has he dried the tears and removed the afflictions of one child of misery, before another presents himself, who is also sent away rejoicing. As the sun never pauses in his brilliant career, but continually sends forth beams to enlighten and warm, so our Sun of Righteousness never ceased to shed forth his benign and gracious influences. As he came from the ruler's house, two blind men followed him, beseeching him to restore them to sight. Unostentatious in the performance of his miracles, and desirous by a delay o( bis mercy to increase their faith and importunity, he did not notice them in the public street ; but when they had followed him into the house in which he entered, he opened their eyes. Learn, Christians, the benefit of a holy perseverance. If the Lord appear not to hear your first supplications, yet do not desist. For reasons infinitely wise, he often defers for a season the bestowal of his blessings. But wait upon him with patience and faith, and you will in due time receive an answer of peace. Even when he seems to say to you as to the patriarch, " Let me go," with him reply, " I will not let thee go, except thou bless me." " Jesus straitly charged them, saying, Let no man know U* n But their gratitude was too great, their zeal for the honour of their Benefactor was too warm, to permit them to hold their peace, and " they spread abroad
LIFE OF CHftlST. 245 his fame in all that country." We mean not to excuse them : their duty certainly was to obey the injunction of the Saviour ; but their error was the result of
a feeling heart, and was allied to gratitude. Believers, " who have been brought from darkness into marvellous light," on whose souls " the day-spring from on high has risen," you have received no such injunction. On the contrary, you are commanded "Jto show forth the praises of him who hath called you." Do you then, without hesitation, declare the excellences of Jesus; tell others of his compassion, his power, his glories, and strive to allure them to him. These persons had scarcely departed, when a demoniac, who was dumb, and probably bereft of reason, was brought to him. Insensible of his own misery, and unable to apply for relief, he was brought to the Saviour by others. Happy they who have such charitable and pious friends, who thus pity them when they feel not their need of pity ; when they know not their own wretchedness ; who thus bear them to Jesus. Our Lord having healed him, he immediately spoke rationally and fluently, to the astonishment of all present; so that they extolled the author of so many miracles above all the prophets that had ever lived. " They said, It ivas never so seen in Israel." The pharisees, however, were filled with envy and malignant fury ; but not being able to deny the reality of the miracles, they ascribed them to magic, and a confederacy with Beelzebub, the prince of devils. The absurdity and impiety of this declaration we shall hereafter be led to examine. The calumnies of the pharisees could not, however, cause Jesus to desist from his good offices to men ; for he immediately after left Capernaum, and made
2 46 SERMO XLV1II. another tour through Galilee, every where preaching
the gospel of salvation, and confirming his doctrine by miraculous cures. In returning to Capernaum he beheld with compassion the vast multitudes who needed instruction, and ordered his disciples to " pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers," skilful and faithful ministers, " into the harvest." He himself, also, as we are informed by St. Luke, (vi. 13.) went up privately into a mountain, and spent the whole night in prayer. This was frequently his practice. Again I exclaim, What a life was that of Jesus ! Every moment of it was consecrated to works of piety and charity. Can we fail to be moved, when we thus behold him passing his days in conferring the highest blessings upon men ; in curing them of their ignorance and vices by his holy and affecting instructions, and of their maladies, by his miraculous power ; and after this, spending his wakeful nights in communion with his Father, and in the exercises of devotion ? " And when it was day," continues St. Luke, " he called unto him his disciples ; and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles." " He chose them," says St. Mark, " to be always with hdm. n He did not yet give them the power of working miracles, but kept them nigh his person, to learn the doctrine which they were afterwards to preach ; to behold his excellences, and to be witnesses of those miracles by which his divine mission was confirmed. At the expiration of some months he sent them by two and two into the different parts of Judea, to announce the glad tidings of salvation. Hence they were called apostles, a word which signifies persons sent out. But their name was more peculiarly applicable, and their office carried to its perfection, after the ascension of Christ, when he gave
LIFE OP CHRIST. 247 them the inspiration of the Spirit, and the power of
working miracles, and sent them to preach the gospel to every creature. The names of these highly honoured persons are given us by the Evangelist. Simon Peter and Andrew are mentioned first, not because they were superior in dignity to the others, but because they became disciples of Christ before them. They were brethren, the children of Jonah. Originally they were fishermen, and resided at Bethsaida. They afterwards settled at Capernaum, where they dwelt when Christ chose them as apostles. With the disposition, the life, and the circumstances of the death of Peter, you are acquainted. Of Andrew we know less : he has left no writings which may enable us to judge of his spirit and endowments. Having preached some years in Jerusalem, after the ascension of the Saviour, he carried the gospel, according to ecclesiastical historians, to Scy thia ; and at last wascrucified at the city of PatraB in Achaia. Thus these two brethren, who had been united during life in love and obedience to the Saviour, were in death united in conformity to his sufferings. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also fishermen, and dwelt in Capernaum. They received from Christ the sirname of Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder ; in allusion either to the vehemence of their temper, or to the force and success with which they should preach the gospel. James received the crown of martyrdom under Herod; and John, the beloved disciple, after having survived all the other apostles, died peaceably at Ephesus, at a very advanced age. Philip was also of Bethsaida, and originally was a
248 SERMO XLVIIl.
disciple of the Baptist. Having preached the gospel in Upper Asia, he died a martyr at Hierapolis. Bartholometv is supposed to be the same with athaniel, whose conversion we have already considered. The history of Matthew has been exhibited to you. Of Thomas we know nothing before his conversion : he was also called Didymus, probably because he was a twin. James the less, (so called to distinguish him from the James who was killed by Herod.) Judas, who was also called Lebbeus and Thaddeus. And Simon Zelotes, as he is called by Luke, or as he is termed by Matthew, Simon the Canaanite, (which is a Hebrew sirname, denoting his zeal and fervour.) These three were brethren, the sons of Alpheus or Cleophas, and of Mary, the sister of the Holy Virgin. They are sometimes called in the gospels, Christ's brethren, an expression which the Jews used to signify any near relation. The epistles of James and Jude were written by the first two of these brethren. The list closes with the name of Judas the traitor. He was the son of one Simon, and received the sirname of Iscariot; the literal meaning of which word is, a man of Cariot, a town of the tribe of Judah, in which probably he was born. Such were the persons chosen to establish the Church of Christ, to reform the world, and to overturn idolatry, superstition, and false religion. Had human prudence been to make choice of instruments for so grand an undertaking, doubtless such as were remarkable for deep science, strong reasoning, and prevailing eloquence, would have been selected: and these endowments, probably, would have been supported by the external advantages of wealth and
LIFE OF CHRIST. 249 power. But the wisdom, infinitely superior to that of man, acted differently. The treasure was committed to earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power might be seen to be of God.
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