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he sat down at their tables, he assisted at their nuptial festivity, he indulged in the mutual endearments of friendship, he paid attention to little children, took them to his arms and blessed them. Disciple of Jesus, go thou and do likewise. Ill does it become thee to be stately, and distant, and reserved and ungracious, when he was so meek and condescending. There are certain austere Christians who will on no occasion, and on no account, descend from the pinnacle of their dignity, and who render religion disgusting to others by the harshness of their manners, and a severe, morose, ungainly deportment. This they cannot have learned of Christ, nor at his old school.
Will they vouchsafe to take a lesson from the apostle Paul, who understood his own real dignity as well as any man? “Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate." And I beg leave to add, from him: “ Be not wise in your own conceits.”
2. Jesus himself was all purity and perfection, but the mother of Jesus was subject to culpable infirmity. She incurred censure oftener than once, and therefore is not to be looked up to as a perfect model, much less to receive the adoration which is due to Deity alone. It is one of the most humiliating views of human understanding, to behold it so far degraded as to think of approaching the great intercessor and friend of mankind, through the intercession of another. “ There is one God," saith the Scripture, and one “Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.' No, says popery, you inust have a mediatrix betwen you and that Mediator; nay, one armed with authoirty to control and command him. The mind turns away with horror from the blasphemous suggestion. The rights of parents have a boundary, both as to extent and duration, the authority of God knows no limit, and never can expire. When his voice is heard, that of nature must be suppressed. The duties of the public character must absorb the feelings of the private individual. We may warrantably lay before our compassionate Redeemer our most secret thoughts, and pour out our hearts before him in
and supplication, in perfect submission to his will; but we must not presume either to prescribe to his providence, or to arraign his conduct. He doeth all things wisely and well.
3. Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving : for “ it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” Whether therefore God supplies the good things of life in the ordinary course of nature, or by a special interposition of his almighty power, they are liberally bestowed, they are the bounty of a Father, to be used, to be enjoyed. When God placed our grand progenitor in the terrestrial paradise, the parental grant was large : "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat ;" but with one single reservation; “ But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” We are still on the same footing, in a world which has indeed ceased to be a paradise, but which, nevertheless, is still abundantly stored with every thing necessary, convenient, and comfortable for man. The grant is still as liberal: “The good of the land is before you :" take, thou mayest freely eat, freely drink. But, mark the reservation, still indispensable as ever, eat, drink, in moderation, to the support and refreshment of the body, not its depression and derangement. To a certain bound this is cordial, salutary, nutritive : beyond, its nature changes, it becomes a deadly poison. Satisfy thyself with knowing its good, and venture not to make trial of its evil. Did Jesus convert water into wine that he might minister fuel to excess? The thought is impious. As well might a bountiful Providence be charged with the gluttony, the drunkenness and all the other sensual lusts in which men indulge themselves, because it “ gives us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” The miracle of
Cana of Galilee, as all those which our Lord wrought, was a miricle of good ness ; it provided a supply of a necessary of life, to a family in moderate circumstances, and which lasted them, I doubt not, for many days : it was the repayment of a debt of friendship and hospitality, in a manner peculiar to himself; and it was a manifestation of his glory in the eyes of his disciples, who had far other thoughts than that of abusing their Master's bounty ; “ they beJieved on him.”
4. We have said that this and all our Saviour's other miracles were miracles of goodness: We now add, They were all disinterested. Ile here gave proof of sovereignty uncontrolable. It was exercised to supply the temporal wants of a few, and to minister to the everlasting consolation of myriads. But “ Christ pleased not himself.” What might not his power have commanded, of all that is exquisite on the earth, in the air, through the paths of the sea ? But though an hungred, he will not command stones to be made bread for his own use; if he iniraculously multiply a few loaves and fishes, it is to feed a starving, fainting multitude. If he makes the sea tributary, it is at one time to compensate the painful labour, of poor men, who had “ toiled all night and taken nothing,” at another, to prevent offence by paying his tribute money, Fish broiled on a fire of coals, and a morsel of bread, are the simple fare on which he and his disciples dine, even “after that he was risen froin the dead." “ Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” “ They that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses ;" His clothing was not worth dividing among a few of the basest of mankind: His raiment, his lodging, his fare were all of apiece. And is the servant greater than his Lord ? To the poor the Gospel is preached, and to the poor the example is set, the example of contentment with a low condition, of meek submission to hardship, of superiority to the vanities and luxuries of this world, of self-government and self-denial. His modern disciples have been accused of love of ease and indulgence, of fondness for dainties and delicacies, of aiming at power and preeminence. If the imputation be just, it is to be lamented : and Christians of every rank and denomination are concerned, as far as in them lies, to do it away. If it be illfounded, it must be borne, as part of the reproach of Christ; and his disciple must bear in mind that he is bound by the law and by the practice of his divine Master, not only to abstain from all evil, but from all appearance of evil.
HISTORY OF JESUS CHRIST.
LUKE IV. 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44.
And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon's house : and Simon's wife's mother was
taken with a great fever; and they besought bim for her. And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and il left her. And immediately she arose, and ministered unto thein. Now, when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed thein. And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, thou art Christ, the Son of God And he, rebuking thein, suffered them not to speak : for they knew that he was Christ. And when it was day he departed, and went into a desert place; and the people sought him, and came unto him, and stayed hiin, that he shoule not depart from them. And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also; for iherefore am I sent. And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.
The religion of the Gospel is adapted to every possible condition of life, for it is adapted to the nature of man, who, with the variation of a few circumstances, is the same universally, and in every age. There is the difference of colour and speech, the difference of climate and soil, the difference of high and low, of rich and poor ; but still it is man, with all his excellencies and imperfections, with all his capability of degradation and of improvement, with all his propensities to evil and to good. Christianity takes him up as he is, and undertakes to make him what he ought to be. “Can the Ethiopian change his colour, or the leopard his spots ?" No, replies nature, I gave that colour, I painted those spots ; but I cannot undo my own work. He that is black must, for me, continue black still, that which is spotted must be spotted still. But the grace of the Gospel unfolds a mystery which it is beyond the reach of nature to solve. It transforms that which was as scarlet into the whiteness of snow, what was red like crimson into the colour of wool.
** Can these dry bones live?" Yes, at the word, and by the spirit of the Lord.
Miracles like these the Spirit of Christ is exhibiting every day. Do we not see: O that the spectacle were more common! Do we not see loftiness of station united to lowliness of mind; a hard lot to a contented spirit; the fulness of this world to the exceeding riches of the grace of God ?
When the Son of God came for the salvation of a lost world, “ verily he took not on him the nature of angels.” But more wonderful still ! he united the divine nature to the human, and thereby became at once an object of supreme adoration, and a familiar instructer. What he said and did as the Lord, “wise in heart and mighty in strength,” we must ever contemplate at an awful distance, admiring, venerating what we cannot find out unto perfection, and which we are still more incapable of imitating. But in what he said and did as a man, we behold a pattern most'amiably simple, most powerfully impressive, most consummately perfect. In vain do we look apy where
else for that steadiness and uniformity of character which alone can merit the distinction of being proposed as an example. Whom else can we with safety follow in every thing? In the most perfect of mere men, wbile there is much to respect and to commend, there is ever a something to blame and to regret; some fault of temper, some inconsiderateness of expression, some inconsistency of conduct.
But in our divine Master all is estimable, uniform and consistent. He presents one and the same character in solitude and in society, in the synagogue and in domestic retirement, at a marriage feast and before the tribunal; displaying a native dignity undebased by an infusion of insolence, condescension pure from servility, fortitude without ferociousness, sensibility without affectation, the sublimity of devotion with the perfect ease of friendship.
In the last Lecture we attended this friend of mankind to the celebration of a marriage solemnity, and beheld him partaking of the pure delights of friendly and domestic intercourse, mingling with his kindred and with the disciples whom he had chosen ; and while he miraculously ministered to their wants, as the great Ruler and Lord of nature, we observe him, as bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh, sympathizing in their joys, adopting their solicitudes, their wants and expectations, and joining in their conversation. Thus he tacitly and obliquely reproves that haughty reserve, that unbending stateliness, that ungracious distance from men which frequently attempts to pass for superiour wisdom, sanctity and importance. We pretend not to arrange the several events of our Lord's history in the exact order of time. The Evangelists display them in an energetic simplicity far beyond the reach of art.
There is in the word of God, if it be lawful to say so, a majestic irregularity that transcends the control of rule; just as the surface of our globe, with its mountains and valleys, its precipices and plains, its rivers and oceans, defies the application of the straight line and of the compasses ; and as the face of the starry heavens presents to the eye a magnificent assemblage of worlds scattered about by a hand that rejects all measurement by any standard but its own. Science has indeed contrived artificial combinations and arrangements both of the heavenly bodies, and of Scripture truths, but their native glory and magnitude are not reducible to systems of human invention. It may be pleasant, and far from unprofitable, to ascertain dates, to unravel the chain ; but it is surely of secondary moment. The actions and events themselves, and the evidence that they existed, are the great concern of the Christian world; but above all, the practical influence of those great truths on the hearts, the consciences, and the lives of men.
Precluded from opportunities of being eminently useful at Nazareth, through the envy and unbelief of bis townsmen, Jesus withdraws from that city, not in anger but in sorrow, though a most cruel, ungrateful and atrocious attempt upon his life bad been made by its unworthy inhabitants ; and he proceeds to prosecute his labours of love at Capernaum, a city situated on the sea of Galilee. From this place, it would appear, he was called to the adjacent town of Cana, to the celebration of the marriage; and that solemnity being ended, he returns to Capernaum accompanied by the disciples whom he had already chosen. Here we find this Teacher sent from God still indefatigably pursuing the great object of his mission, and still putting respect on the word and ordinances of God. Behold him devoting the day of sacred rest to useful purposes ; employing the leisure and retirement from temporal concerns which it afforded, in executing the benevolent office of instructing the ignorant and guilty, in the way of life and salvation. We know, from the general strain of his public ministrations, and particularly from the portion of Scripture, which he rehearsed and applied in the synagogue at Nazareth, that the things written concerning himself constituted the great bur
then of his preaching : Scripture the source, Christ Jesus the subject, the sabbath the season, the synagogue the scene. “ Never man spake like this man."
But the services of an earthly sanctuary must close. There is a season of retirement and repose as there is of labour and exertion. The duties of private friendship, of domestic devotion, the rights of hospitality, the care of the body, put in their several claims, which must be answered. Christ accordingly “ arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Siinon's house.” The accommodations of a poor fisherman's hovel, on the shore of the lake of Gennessaret, could not be very elegant. The fare provided by a hard-working plebeian, doomed frequently to toil all night long, without taking any thing, could not be very luxurious or delicate. But when a man gives you the shelter of his roof, however mean, and a place at his board, however homely, he does all that a prince can do; and the difference is a paltry circumstance or two, beneath the consideration of a rational being.
But the house of Peter was, at this time, not only the abode of penury, but likewise the house of mourning, for “ Simon's wife's mother was taken with a great fever.” The sabbath had not been to her a day of rest, but of agitation and pain; and the distress of a sick-bed might probably be aggravated by reflecting on absence from the house of prayer, and from the comforts of the public worship of God. The value and importance of objects vary strangely, in our estimation, as they are viewed through the medium of health or of sickness, of pain or ease. The illusion of the world disappears, when the fever in the blood forms in the distempered imagination, whirling orbs of perturbation, and perplexity, and despair ; or when, in cold blood, conscience daris an anxious look into the world of spirits. Very different is the aspect of the sabbath in the eye, and the hour, of thoughtless dissipation, and when the son of dissipation is stretched on a bed of languishing. Then he “snuffed at it, and said, Behold, what a weariness is it? When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn, and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat ?" But how very different are the reflections of “the days of darkness,” of the “months of vanity,” of the “ wearisome nights," appointed, when the sleepless patient is constrained 10 cry out, “ When shall I arise and the night be gone."
“What fruit had I then in those things, whereof I am now ashamed ? for the end of those things is death."
The visit of Jesus to Peter's family had more than one object in view. The friend of man retired to converse with men, the master to instruct his disciples, the poor to feed with the poor, the weary to repose with the weary. The Son of God entered into the house to manifest his glory, to display his power, to exercise his benevolence in the miraculous relief of distress. Thus amply does he repay every token of affection bestowed on himself, or on one of the least of his brethren. Distress awakens sympathy. The children of the family cannot think of sitting down to eat bread, while the mother of it lay in extremity. Filial tenderness had undoubtedly exerted itself to the uttermost. The poor scrip of the Galilean had, perhaps, been drained in purchasing medicine and cordial for his afflicted mother-in-law: though this be none of the least of the evils which attend poverty, to behold the person whom we love perish for want of advice and dicine, for want of a cordial beyond the reach of our means. As a last resource they lay her case before Jesus: "and they besought him for her.” Did he need to be importuned ? Was he difficult of access? Did his goodness flow reluctantly? No, but the intercourse between heaven and earth, between the Creator and the creature is the confidence, the prayer of distress meeting the benignity, the unremitting attention of the Father of mercies, who will be sought unto, that he may shew himself gracious.