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the Jews, for their wickedness in opposing the truth, should be left in unbelief, cut off from being a nation, and scattered like chaff over the face of the earth.
Our great Redeemer then concluded his discourse with another parable of nearly the same import with the foregoing. The kingdom of heaven, said he, is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole is leavened : alluding to the silent and effectual spreading of the gospel, by the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit, and prevailing efficacy of divine truth.
While our Lord was employed in delivering these elegant and beautiful discourses, his mother and brethren came a second time, desiring an interview with him : perhaps they were unwilling that he should weary himself with the continual fatigue of preaching, and did not approve of making himself so public, and appearing in so distinguished a character amongst such vast multitudes of people ; and as it hereafter will appear in the course of this history, that his brethren did not believe in him, it is very likely they designed to take him home with them, and persuade him to attend to secular affairs. But our exalted Redeemer was not to be diverted from following his Father's work, and performing the great duties of his mission. On these grounds he appears to have declined the desired interview, with this answer, My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word
of God, and do it.
Evening now approaching, the Blessed Jesus dismissed the multitude, and retired with his disciples, to an house in Capernaum; where, at their desire, he explained to them the parable of the tares of the field in the manner before related; and then he proceeded to deliver to them the parable of the treasure hid in * the field, and the parable of the pearl of great price.
The first of these parables holds forth the abundant glory, excellency and value of the gospel, above all
earthly possessions; and the last denotes the willingness of all those who are made acquainted with the high
excellency and abundant worth of the gospel, to part with their all in this world to obtain it. But, that the disciples might be informed that a mixed multitude of people who would make a profession of the gospel,
and the hypocrites would be blended with the Christians in such a manner as would be difficult to sepa
rate them, he compared the gospel church to a net, which enclosed every sort of fish, good and bad, but were carefully separated when they were drawn to land; the good were preserved and, the bad thrown away : alluding to the great day of universal and etermal decision and separation, when the righteous will
be received into life eternal, and the wicked cast into hell.
Our Lord having finished these discourses, he asked his disciples if they understood them, they answered in the affirmative; and our great Redeemer added that every teacher of the gospel ought to resemble a person whose house was completely furnished, and bringeth forth out of his treasures, things new and old.
Not long after this, our great Redeemer left Capernaum, and repaired to Nazareth, the city where he had spent his younger years, and where he had dwelt with his relations till he entered on his public ministry, and preached amongst his old friends and countrymen, the glad-tidings of the kingdom. But they, though astonished at his doctrine, could not overcome the prejudices they had formerly conceived against him on account of the meanness of his family, and therefore would not own him to be the Messiah; they could not overcome the strong national prejudice they had conceived against their promised deliverer's appearing in a low, mean condition in the world; nor could they
ive up their ideas of the glory and grandeur of the Messiah's appearance, so far as to suppose it possible that JEsus should be the man. Our Lord, therefore, finding them in the same temper of mind as when he formerly visited them, did not choose to stay long amongst them, but departed and taught in the neighbouring villages.
During our Saviour's stay at Nazareth, he sent out his disciples to preach in different parts of Galilee, and proclaim the glad-tidings that God was going to establish the glorious kingdom of the Messiah, in which he would be worshipped in spirit and truth; and that they might confirm the doctrines they taught, and convince the whole nation that they received their commission from the Son of God, they were endowed with the power of working miracles. The evangelists have not informed us how long they continued their preaching; but it is reasonable to suppose that they spent a considerable time in carrying on their work in several parts of the country.
The people perceiving such wonderful works performed by the disciples of CHRIST, were exceedingly amazed, and their expectations were raised very high ; for they could not recollect that the old prophets had ever given to their servants the power of working miracles, and of consequence, they concluded that JESUS must be greater than any of them. This extraordinary circumstance raised the attention of the nation, and spread his fame so effectually about the country, that it reached the ears of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. This prince having lately, in an unjust and cruel manner, taken away the life of John the Baptist, heard of the mighty works performed by CHRIST, and his disciples, with the utmost uneasiness and concern. His attendants endeavored to dissipate his fears, by telling him that one of the old prophets was risen from the dead; but a consciousness of his guilt would not permit him to rest; for he apprehended, that the illustrious person he had so basely murdered, was risen from the dead, and would doubtless be revenged on his murderer. He said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist ; he is risen from the dead, and therefore mighly works do shew forth themselves in him.
It has been before related, on what occasion, and in what manner the Baptist was put to death; and the news of this mournful event having reached the disciples of CHRIST, while they were preaching in Galilee, those of them who had formerly been the disciples of John, went and paid their last respects to the remains of their master, whom having decently interred, they carried the tidings to Jesus. When our great Redeemer had heard of the death of his relation and forerunner, he found himself disposed for retirement, and sought the silent shades of the desert of Bethsaida: he departed as private as possible, that he might not be incommoded by the multitude, and for the greater secrecy he went by sea. But every precaution was insufficient to screen him from the penetrating eyes of the multitude who followed him; and his departure was not long concealed, for great numbers repaired to the desert, and found out the place of his retreat. The miracles which he performed, the benefit which the helpless and miserable, always found from his goodness and the strain of divine elo. which flowed from his lips, had such an efect on the honest, open-hearted part of the nation, that the multitudes had seen the wonders he performed, and heard his heavenly voice, thought no difficulties too great to surmount, no hardships too great to endure, and no place too retired for them to penetrate, in order to attend on his ministry.
The kind and compassionate Saviour of sinners, seeing the multitude had found out his place of retreat and beholding them crowding about him, viewed them with tenderness and love, because they were as sheep having no shepherd; for, having none to instruct
them in those things which concerned their everlasting peace, they wandered about without a guide, without a defender. Their situation indeed, was like that of a large flock of sheep wandering upon the mountains, without a shepherd to feed and defend them from the ravenous jaws of the various beasts of prey which waited to devour them. The blessed JEsus, therefore, that good Shepherd who came to lay down his life for the sheep, beheld them with compassion : that same pity which brought him down from the throne of glory in heaven, for the sake of his lost and wandering sheep, now brought him to this multitude of people: his heavenly goodness healed all the sick amongst them, and from his lips they heard the words of eternal life.
The divine Instructor continued his heavenly discourses, and attended to the great work of healing the diseased, not dismissing the people, though the day wore away, and the shades of the evening were approaching. His disciples, thinking this circumstance had escaped his notice, thought proper to remind him, that the day was far advanced, and the place a solitary desert, where neither food nor lodging could be procured : it would, therefore, be convenient to dismiss the people, that they might repair to the towns or villages on the borders of the wilderness, and provide themselves food and other accommodations; for they had nothing to eat. But our Lord informed them, that he did not intend to dismiss the surrounding multitude so hastily, for, as they were weary and faint in the wilderness, it was his intention to give them a repast ; at the same time, to try what opinion his disciples entertained of his power, he turned to Philip, who was well acquainted with the country, and inquired, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat P Philip, astonished at the proposal, considering the vastness of the multitude, and the enormous quantity of provisions which would be necessary to supply them, apprehended it impossible to