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also, as of every thing else that is wise and good; He was a pattern of regular, orderly conduct; from his childhood, and upward, He was a silent instructer of the successive stages of rising existence, in docility, in contentment, in submission, in regularity.
Let no one tell me that it is useless to habituate children betimes to the forms of devotion; to the observance of institutions whose meaning and intention they do not fully comprehend: to restraints which to them appear harsh and unreasonable. It is a great thing, indeed it is every thing, to be under the government of innocent or praiseworthy customs: to be inured to the laws of order ; to be prepared for thinking for themselves, and for having their sentiments heard and attended to, by learning to pay respect to the understanding, to the opinions, and to the experience of others. "Think with what holy indignation, le, whose name we bear, would have listened to a proposal to violate his custom, and to make the hour of the devotions of the synagogue, the hour of walking into the corufields !
The historian is here singularly minute, and gives wonderful vivacity to his representation, by going into a detail of particulars. Among these, we must advert to his posture and attitude, when employed in reading to the people the word of God. He stoud up for to read. Nature seems to point this out as an attitude of reverence and respect. Since the days of Abraham, who stood
up and bowed himself before the people of the land wherein he dwelt, the wise, the benevolent, and the courteous have employed it as an expression of regard to superiour sanctity, power, majesty or multitude. Posture is, in itself, still more indifferent than time or place; but nothing is indifferent in the eyes of true wisdom by which the interests of either human virtue or felicity can be affected. Truth is the same whether delivered in an erect or a recumbent posture.
But in matters of this sort, What says common practice ? Will my compliance conciliate affection, procure attention, give force to what is said? Then I will cheerfully conform. Will my singularity give offence, will it awaken prejudice, will it injure the cause I mean to promote ? Then I will not affect singularity; I will not be uncomplying nor unkind; and I will dissent only where conscience is concerned, and where compliance would be criminal.
How melancholy it is to reflect, on the talents which have been perverted, on the time which has been wasted, but that is comparatively nothing, on the angry spirits which have been excited, on the oceans of blood which have been spilt, in determining whether standing, siiting or kneeling; whether this or the other unessential circumstance were most adapted to the nature of things, or most conformable to the will, or conducive to the glory, of the Creator. In this too, therefore, I consider the example of Christ as intelligible, decided and instructive.
ile “stood up to read.” Happily for the world, its information and instruction in matters of everlasting moment were not entrusted to the uncertainty, the changeableness and the corruptibility of oral tradition. He who bestowed on man the gift of speech, for the mutual communication of thought, gave likewise the pattern of permanent speech, by means of writing ; by which thought is transmitted from region to region, from generation to generation, unsophisticated, unimpaired. Hence the events which Moses recorded; and which Isaiah predicted, the precepts of the Law and the promises of the Gospel, descend from age to age in equal purity, weight and measure: and the son sees, reads and apprehends the selfsame truth which was the light and joy of his progenitors.
And what must it have been to hear the sublime and pathetic strains of Isaiah pronounced hy the tongue of Him who formed the ear for the perception of melodious sounds, the mouth to utter them, and the heart to receive the impresssion of sacred and interesting truth! We
For the proper
may judge of it from the mute attention with which he was heard, and from the wonder expressed, after he had finished, “at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth."
It would appear that it was not only “his custom” to attend the synagogue, but to perform the office of public reader to the assembly. minister delivers to Him, as to the acknowledged conductor of this part of the service, that portion of the Sacred Code which either order prescribed, or which his selection called for, or to wbich Providence specially directed: and he received it from Him again to be deposited in its place. And whether indeed did Providence, independent of human design or foresight, by a special interposition unfold the particular passage from ancient prophecy; or did his own choice select it as peculiarly applicable to the occasion? In either case, what portion of the Old Testament Scriptures is more emphatically descriptive of his person, character, and divine mission ? And what can be so worthy of our most deep and serious attention, whether we consider the infinite and everlasting moment of the subject, the interest which we have in it, or the affecting correspondence of the event with the prediction, of the prophet with his object.
The prophecy holds up to view a person of the most distinguished eminence, consecrated in the most extraordinary manner, to the execution of the most generous, merciful and benevolent purposes, and in language the most powerful and pathetic. It is the anointed of the Lord God, his Holy One, who alone could without presumption undertake, and triumphantly accomplish, the work of redemption, and could unfold that "
great mystery of Godliness" which angels desire to look into: who was set apart from everlasting to this high destination, who was gradually revealed, and in the fulness of time, sent to be the salvation of God to all the ends of the earth. Who was anointed, not as Aaron to the priesthood, and David to the sovereignty by a material oil of exquisite odour and costly price, but by the efiusion of the Spirit, the Spirit of power, of wisdom, of holiness, which rested upon him without measure; ta and which was bestowed upon him, for what purpose ? with Moses to humble the pride, and crush the power of Egypt? or with Cyrus, " to subdue nations, to loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates, to make the crooked places straight, to break in picces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron ;' to execute the righteous judgement of the Eternal on rebellion, presumption, and disobedience; to condemn and to destroy? No, when this mighty One cometh, armed with power, anointed with the Spirit, it is to dispense grace, to diffuse happiness, to relieve the miserable.
“ He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.” The poor are, with the great of the earth, the objects of neglect, and contempt, and oppression. In the dictionary of the world, rich means respectable, powerful and important: and poverty is equivalent to wretchedness, meanness, despicability. But the dispensation of grace by the gospel inverts this order; it affixes a different, indeed an opposite meaning to words, it raises into consequence what was lightly esteemed, and it hurls pride down to the ground. It
puts down the mighty from their seats, and exalteth them of low degree." Is it poverty of condition? That is no bar against the admission of the consolations of Christianity; that is no disqualification for enjoying the rights of citizenship of the kingdom of heaven; that implies no exclusion from the glorious“ privileges of the sons of God;" that implies neither sin nor shame. Is it poverty of spirit? It is the creature's highest glory; it is the Redeemer's brightest and most perfect image; it is the soul's preparation for the kingdom of heaven. To the one and to the other is the anointed of the Lord sent to preach the gospel; to the poor in this world, that they may learn to be Roberminded, patient and content; not envying nor grieving at the good of
others, but laying up for themselves " treasures in heaven;" looking for " another country,” for “a city wbich bath foundations, whose builder and maker is God :"-10 the poor in spirit, that they may “grow in grace,” that they may " contemplate and follow their pattern more closely, learning of him daily to be “meek and lowly in heart, that they may find rest to their souls.”
“He hath sent me to heal the broken hearted.” Gracious office! divine Physician! Thou only art equal to the task. “ The heart knoweth its own bitterness ;" The ill admits of no cure ; the officious consolation of the creature only irritates the wound ; time itself brings no relief. But behold, here, not a temporary relief, but a lasting cure; not the transient spirit and calm of a stupifying opiate, but the solid support of wholesome food, and the refreshing balm of wholesome rest. An insnaring, persecuting world, mourner in Zion, disturbs thy peace, and breaks thy heart; but He hath said " be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” as In the world ye shall have tribulation, but in me ye shall have peace.” In the bitterness of thy soul thou criest out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?"-Trembling, sinking creature, speak peace to thy soul,“ return to thy rest,” “there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus; it is God that justifieth ; who is he that condemneth ?"
To preach deliverance to the captives. Bondage, slavery, captivity are happily known to us only by the name, or in idea. We are more than Abraham's children ; our father's contended for liberty, Heaven granted it, and we enjoy it. But ah! our country is but a speck on the globe ; our population is but a handful of men. And alas, even in our own country there is captivity. How many among us“ wax poor and fall into decay,” and that not from profligacy and prodigality alone? The creditor comeih, and there is nothing to give him. The loss of liberty is the consequence: the evil becomes worse and worse. He who entered within the walls of a prison unfortunate only, continues there under a total incapacity of shaking off calamity. What was at first the pressure of debt, imperceptibly changes into an intolerable load of rice, from which a miracle of grace alone can deliver. How many thousands of our fellow-subjects are in this unhappy, this almost hopeless condition ! But liberty may exist even in a dungeon. If the prisoner carries with him into confinement the “ spirit of adoption," he is alicady delivered from bondage. No bolts, nor bars, nor fetters of iron can restrain the heaven-born mind; he can look up and “ cry, Abba, Father !" .6. He that is called in the Lord, being a slave, is the Lord's freeman." 5. If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Paul in bonds, a prisoner in the cause of Jesus Christ, possesses a nobly free and independent spirit. Galled with stripes;" " thrust into the inner prison” at Philippi, with Silas his companion in tribulation, “ their feet made fast in the stocks,” they enjoy liberty of access to the throne of Grace. " At midnight they prayed, and sang praises upto God." Thus “ the Lord looseth the prisoners," and thus the Anointed is " sent to preach," and to give " deliverance to the captives."
But what, in respect either of multitude or of misery, are imprisoned debtors, or even felons lying under the rod of the law, compared to the voluntarily enslaved ? “Whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin.” And what blindness is like wilful blindness, and what servitude so hopeless, so inglorious as that into which a man degrades bimself? It is some alleviation of the depression of a servile estate, that the master is honourable, and that the service required is neither humiliating nor severe: but O how mortifying the reflection of being in subjection to an unfeeling monster, to a capricious tyrant, 10 a contemptible groundling! And such is every slave to irregular appetite, whether it be “the lust of the flesh, or the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life.” Such dream that they are following their own will, but in truth they
“are led captive by Satan at his will:” and “the wages of sin is death.” To deliver from this most inflorious, this fatal thraldom, then, is the object of Christ's mission. What, Britons, glory, and will you may, in your civil liberties! and willingly assume the yoke of a paltry interest, of a griwelling propensity which you are ashamed to avow! What, make it your boast that the moment the ill-fated African breathes British air he becomes free; and continue deliberat iy to “ fullil the desires of the flesh and of the mind," which war ngasi the soul !” Great Deliverer, exert ihy power, display thy grace; open their eyes, turn them from darkness to light, and from tbe power of Satan unto cod, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanculied.”
• He hath sent me--for the recovering of sight to the blind.” On what numberless, and what delicate hinges does human comfort turn! Who can describe " the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to ?” Were the kindness of Nature or the care of Providence to be suspended but for a day, into what a lazar-house would the world be instantly transformed! The delect of a nail of a little finger is a blemish in organization, but a blemish which nature seldom permits; how much less a deficiency of one of the nobler parts, or a disarrangement of the whole system! “But that the works of God should be made manifest," a "man is blind from his birth;” and another loses “the precious treasure of his eyesight.” Of the two, the latter surely is the greater evil. We cannot regret what we have hardly an idea of, what we never possessed, and to which we become perfectly reconciled before we are conscious of existence. But to recollect the pleasures of vision after the organ is destroyed ; but to be reduced to mourn with the poet in these affecting strains :
With the year
Seasons return; but not 10 me returus
PARADISE Lost, III. 10, &c.
This is * darkness which may be felt." In representing, accordingly, the deplorable state of the world under the image of blindness, a state of ignorance, guilt and wretchedness; and in representing the correspondent officc and work of the Redeemer, that blindness is not described as an original and radical defect of sight, but as the casual deprivation of a blessing once in possession : and he is considered as sent, not to confer a benefit unknown, unenjoyed before, but to restore that which was lost, to relumine the extinguished orb. The truth is, men had wilfully shut their eyes, because they could not bear the light. This was the condemnation of the unbelieving Jews, with all their superiour advantages : “ Jesus said, For judgement I am come into this world; that they who see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also ? Jesus said unto them, Il ye were blind, ye should have no sin : but now ye say, We sce; therefore your sin remaineth." And this was the condemnation of the self-conceited Gentiles, with all their affectation of wisdom : “professiog themselves to be wise, they became fools;" " they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” They are in another place thus described, and un
der the same image; “ The Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the lise of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart :' And this mental darkness is represented as necessarily blended with moral corruption of the grossest kind. Thus are both Jews and Gentiles involved in thick darkness, and both under the dominion of sin; 6. God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” The promises of Messiah are of equal extent; as “ a salvation prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel."
“ Jle is sent, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” We have here a representation of human misery in every circumstance of aggravation; poverty, mental depression, captivity, blindness, fetters of iron. There is in this gradation, perhaps, an allusion to the horrid treatment of unhappy prisoners on falling into the hands of their enemies. They were shut up in prison, their eyes were thrust out, they were loaded with chains. Thus was Samson treated, the moment his strength failed, and his cruel adversaries had obtained power over him: “ The Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass ; and he did grind in the prisonhouse." And the sight of his wretchedness they called sport. In this manner could one king act by another. “So they took the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah ; and they gave judgement
And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with feiters of brass, and carried bim to Babylon.” Such are the dreadful abuses which a man commits against bis brother! such is the dreadful malignity of the human heart; such the detestable working of "the carnal mind,” which“ is enmity against God," and an unrelenting foe to man !
This enumeration of human woes, is equivalent to a declaration, that whatever may be the nature, and whatever the extent of the malady, the promised deliverer should come provided with a suitable remedy. And when he did come, he not only exercised this gracious power himself; for “they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them ;" but he communicated the same salutary virtue to his disciples also ; “ He gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness, and all manner of discase.” And thus was the scripture fulfilled. The prophecy contains one important article more:
The Anointed is sent to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. Law had a shadow of good things to come. With its severity was blended a powerful infusion of mercy and mildness, the particulars of which had a direct reference to the tinies and the spirit of the Gospel. Of these, the
year of jubilee was one of the most distinguished. It was ushered in with the sound of the trumpet,
proclaiming liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof." On the return of this hallowed fiftieth year, debts were remitied; alienated lands reverted to the original proprietor ; the Ilebrew bondservant to a Hebrew, “ he and his children with him" were to be set free, and restored to their rank in Israel; the poor Hebrew, who had been reduced to the sad necessity of selling himself as a slave to a stranger, was to be redeemed by his next of kin. In a word, at the expiration of every seven times seven years, all the disorders which had crept into the commonwealth, from the period of the preceding jubilee, were to be rectified, and all rematated on the original basis. It is easy to conceive how such an era would be looked unto and longed for, what a happy tendency it had to ameliorare the condition of myriads, and to check the progress of oppression. In contem