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contrariety of that course to the best principles of human nature, and to the most strong and rational obligations ; and consequent. ly, the more we struggle with these difficulties, the more we labour to suppress and root out the remains of all good principles, and break the most inviolable obligations to God and ourselves. The easier it is for us to sin, the more base and corrupt we are : just as the more rotten a limb is, the easier for it to drop off ; the more dis ordered and stupified the body is, the more easy to die. To meet with no obstacle in the way to hell, but to run on without restraint, is terrible indeed; it shews a man aban. doned of God, and ripe for destruction. Such an case in sivning is the quality of a devil.
Upon the whole, you see, that though there be difficulties on both sides, yet the way to heaven has infinitely the advantage ; and therefore, let me again urge you to choose it. You have walked long enough at variance with God, with your own conscience, with your own interest, and duty : come now be recon. ciled : make these your antagonists no longer. While you persist in this opposition, you do but kick against the pricks ; that is, you make a resistance injurious to yourselves. For the future, declare war against sin, Satan, and all their confederates, and ere long ye shall be made more than conquerors ; and for your encouragement remember, He that overcometh shall inher. it all things : and I will be his God, and he shall be my son, saith the Lord God Almighty.
1 THE CHARACTERS OF THE WHOLE AND SICK, IN A SPIRIT
UAL SENSE, CONSIDERED AND CONTRASTED.
MATT. 18. 12. But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them,
they that be whole need not a physiciun, but they that are sick.
THERE is no article of faith more certain than that Jesus Christ is an all-sufficient and most willing Saviour, able to save 80 the uttermost all that come unto God through him, and that those that come unto him, he will in no wise cast out. They that intrust their souls in his hands he keeps, and none of them is lost. It is also certain that all the guilty sons of Adam stand in the most absolute need of him : in vain do they look for salvation in
any other. Without him, they are undone forever : and with. out him, their very existence becomes a curse, and their immortality but the duration of their misery. The disease of sin has so deeply infected their souls, that none but this divine Physician can heal them.
Since this is the case, who would not expect that Jesus would be universally the darling of mankind? Who would not expect that as many as are wounded, and just perishing of their wounds, would all earnestly apply to this Physician, and seek relief from him upon any terms ? Who would suspect there should be so much as one heart cold and disaffected towards him ? Must not all love and desire him, since all need him so extremely, and since he is so completely qualified to be their deliverer?
But, alas! notwithstanding such favourable presumptions from the nature of the thing, it is a inost notorious fact that this divine Physician is but little regarded in our dying world. This all-sufficient and willing Saviour is generally neglected by per. ishing sinners. There are thousands among us that have no affectionate thoughts of him, no eager longings after him, they ex. ert no vigorous endeavours to obtain an interest in bim, nor are they tenderly solicitous about it. They indeed profess his religion, and call themselves christians after his name : they pay him the compliment of a bended knee, and now and then perform the external duties of religion, and thus have high hopes they shall be saved through him ; but as to their hearts and affections, he has no share there : these are reserved for the world, which, in practical estimation, they prefer to him, whatever they profess.
Now whence is this strange and shocking phenomenon in the rational world? Whence is it that the dying are careless about a Physician? That a Deliverer is neglected by those that are perishing ? The true reason we may find in my text, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick ; that is, “they who imagine themselves well, however disordered they are in reality, do not feel their need of a physician, and therefore will not apply to him ; but they who feel themselves sick, will eager. ly apply to him, and put themselves under his care."
This is the answer of Christ to the proud cavilling Pharisees, who censured his free conversation with publicans and sinners, at an entertainment which Matthew had prepared for him. The publicans were a sort of custom-bouse officers among the Jews, appointed by the Romans, whose tributaries they then were, to collect the levies or duties imposed by the government. They were generally persons of bad morals, and particularly given to rapine and extortion in raising the taxes. On this account they were particularly hated by the Jews, especially by the strict sect
of the Pharisees. Their very office would have rendered them : odious, even though they had behaved well in it ; for it was a
public badge of the slavery of the Jews to the Romans ; which, to a people so proud and so fond of liberty as the Jews, was a mortification they could not patiently bear. The publicans therefore were objects of general contempt and abhorrence, as an abandoned sort of men ; and the Jews, particularly the rigid and haughty Pbarisees, held no conversation with them, but kept them at a distance, as though they had been excommunicated. Hence, says Christ, concerning one excommunicated by the church for incorrigible wickedness, Let him be to thee as an heathen man, and a publican, Matt. xviii. 17. that is, have no intercourse with him, but treat him as the Jews do the publicans.
The condescending Jesus, who came to seek and save that which was lost, did not conduct himself towards those poor outcasts, upon the rigid principles of the Pharisees. They held them in such contempt, that they did not labour to instruct and reform them.But Jesus preached to them, conversed with them freely, used the most condescending, affable, and ingratiating measures to reform them, and called some of them to the honour of being his disciples : of this number was Matthew, the author of this history ; once an abandoned publican, afterwards a disciple, an apos. tle, and one of the four evangelists, whose immortal writings have diffused the vital savour of the name of Jesus through all ages and countries. O! the condescension, the freeness, the efficacy of the grace of Christ ! it can make a publican an apostle ! an abhorred outcast the favourite of Heaven, and the companion of angels ! What abundant encouragement does this give to the most abandoned sinner among you to turn unto the Lord ! Let publicans and sinners despair of mercy and salvation if they continue in their present condition ; but if they arise and follow Jesus at his call, and become his humble, teachable disciples, they need not despair ; nay, they may rejoice in hope of the glory of God, and be assured they shall be admitted into the kingdom of God, when the self-righteous children of the kingdom are shut out.
When Matthew had embraced the call, he made a feast for his new Master, that he might shew his respect and gratitude to
him, and that he might let his brother publicans and old companions have an opportunity of conversing with him, and receive bis instructions. How natural is it for a sinner, just brought to love Jesus, 10 use means to allure others to him, especially his former companions ! Having seen his own guilt and danger, he is deeply affected with theirs, and would willingly lead them to that Saviour who has given him so gracious a reception. Indeed his gener. ous endeavours of this kind, though the most substantial and disinterested evidences of friendship, often excite the contempt and ridicule of his former companions ; and the more so, as they are generally attended with the imprudent, but well-meant blunders of inexperience, and an honest zeal mingled with wild fire. at times such a convert is made the instrument of bringing those to be his companions in the way to heaven, who had walked with him in the ways of sin : and this is sufficient encouragement to such of you as have been called, like Matthew, to use your best endeavours with your fellow-sinners. Who knows but you may save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins? And what a noble, beneficent exploit is this?
The blessed Jesus, who was always ready to embrace every opportunity of doing good, whatever popular odium it might expose him to, cheerfully complies with Matthew's invitation, and mingles with a crowd of publicans at his table. Like a physician, he employs himself in an hospital, among the sick and dying, and not among the healthy and gay. The conversation of sipners could not be agreeable to him for itself; but as it gave him opportunity of doing them good, it afforded him a generous pleasure. To converse with his Father and the holy angels in his native heaven, would have been more pleasing in itself to his holy soul ; but if by conversing with sinners in our guilty world, he can but saye the perishing creatures, he cheerfully submits to self-denial, and even rejoices in it ; just as a compassionate physician, though he has no pleasure in the melancholy mansions of sickness, yet frequents them, that he may relieve the distressed.
The Pharisees now thought they had a good handle to raise pop. ular clamour against Christ, and therefore cavil at these freedoms, as though they had been profane, and inconsistent with the character of the Messiah, or even of a prophet. If he claimed this character, they thought it much more becoming him to keep company with them, than with profligate publicans. Hence to stumble and perplex his disciples, they come to them, and
ask, Why ealeth your Master with publicans and sinners? The disciples were not as yet endowed with that mouth and wisdom which all their enemies could not withstand ; and therefore Jesus answers them, and takes upon himself his own defence. The whole, says he, have no need of a physician, but they that are eick. Some suppose, that by the whole, Christ means those that were really whole, or that were not so infected with the disease of sin, as to stand in need of him as a physician. When such persons can be found among the sons of men, this exposition will appear more plausible. But since we know that all have sinned, and stand in need of Christ as a Saviour, it is much more reasonable. I think, to suppose, that by the whole, Christ means those that imagined themselves whole, though really languishing with the deadly disease of sin. It seems to me that he here answers the Pharisees upon their own principles, and proves his conduct to be justifiable, even supposing their high opinion of themselves, and their contemptuous idea of the publicans to be true ; as if he had said, “I come into the world under the character of a physician for sick souls. Such, you will grant, these despised publicans are ; and therefore, you must also grant, that these are the persons I have to deal with, and these are most likely to make application to me. But as for yourselves, you think you are righteous ; you think you are not so far gone with the disease of sin as to need a physician sent down from heaven to heal you. Now I will not determine at present, whether this high opinion you have of yourselves be just or not. Be it right or wrong, it is certain, that while you entertain it, you cannot consistently find fault with my conduct. If you are such, I have no business with you as a plıysician. I must, therefore, rather choose to converse with these sinners, who now begin to see themselves such, and to be sensible of their need of a physician.”
Thus, as I observed, Jesus here forms an argument ad hominem, or vindicates his conduct even upon the principles of the Pharisees themselves. It was not now to his purpose to dispute the high opinion they had of themselves ; even that opinion furnished him with a sufficient defence. But, when it was proper, he faithfully exposes their true character, as proud, self-righleous hypocrites, and denounces the most terrible woes against them.
I might perhaps render the matter plainer by a familiar illustration. Suppose a man of learning in company with two persons; the one really ignorant, but highly conceited of his knowl