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Let us, when tempted to doubt of the truth of Christianity, recollect the various and unanswerable proofs of it, which are summed up in these comprehensive words ; arising from the miracles and character of our Redeemer, and the prophetic testimony that was borne to him. Let us particularly rejoice that the poor have the gospel preached : and that the blessings of it are offered to enrich the souls of those, whose bodily necessities we often pity, without having it in our power to relieve them.
And, since our Lord pronounces a blessing upon those that shall not be offended in him, let us consider what those things are, in the doctrine or circumstances of Christ, which have proved the most dangerous stumbling blocks, and endeavour to fortify our souls against those temptations which may arise from them. So the trial of that faith which is a much more valuable treasure than gold which perishes, though tried in the fire, may be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, (1 Pet. i. 7,) and we, on the whole, may be advanced in our way by incidents which at first threatened to turn us entirely out of it; as the faith of these disciples of John must surely be confirmed by those doubts which they had for a while entertained.
SECTION XIII. Matt. XI. 7-19. LUKE vii. 24–35. AND when the messengers of John were departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see ? A man clothed' in soft raiment ? Behold they that wear soft clothing, and are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings' courts. But what went ye out for to see? a prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. For, verily, I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater prophet than John the Baptist : notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.
And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation ? and to what are they like? They are like unto children sitting in the market-place, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced : we have mourned unto you, and ye have not wept. For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He bath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of all her children.
*How happy would it be, if we could learn to correct the natural inconsistencies of our temper and conduct by wise reflections and considerations! How much more improving would our attendance on the ministrations of God's servants be, were we seriously to ask ourselves to what purpose we attended !
It ought surely to be followed with such considerations, since it is intended to lead us to the kingdom of heaven; a glorious prize! too glorious to be obtained by faint wishes and inactive desires. There is a sense in which it still suffers violence; and how sad is the degeneracy of our natures, that we should exert so little warmth in such a pursuit, and so much for every trifle ! Instead of that holy ardour with which men should press into it, they fold their hands in their bosoms, and lose themselves in soft luxurious dreams, till the precious opportunity is for ever gone. May Divine Grace display the crowns and palms of victory before our eyes, in so awakening a manner, that we may joyfully seize them, whatever obstacles may lie in our way, whatever must be done, or whatever must be borne to secure them!
Let us not, as we love our own souls, through a proud self-sufficiency reject the gracious counsels of God which are addressed to us, lest we should be another day condemned by publicans ani sinners. Divine providence and grace are using a variety of methods with us : let not our perverseness and folly, like that of the Jews, frustrate them all; but rather let us shew ourselves the children of wisdom, by falling in with its measures and improving as well as applauding them.
Matthew xi. 20—30. Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee,
At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father: neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
What can we imagine more dreadful than the guilt and condemnation of those who hear the gospel only to despise it! How can we read the doom of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, without trembling for ourselves, lest we should incur the like sentence ! Such have been our religious advantages and opportunities, that, like them, we have indeed been lifted up to heaven. The Lord grant that we may not, by our misimprovement and disobedience, be cast down to the lowest hell! that Tyre and Sidon, and even Sodom and Gomorrah, may not at last rise up in julgment against us, and call down on our heads a punishment more intolerable than that which has fallen upon them, or which they must even then feel !
Our vain curiosity may perhaps be ready to ask, Why were these advantages given to them that abused them, rather than to those who would have improved them better? But let us impose upon our minds a reverential silence; since the great Lord of heaven and earth giveth not an account of any of his matters, (Job xxxiii. 13.) It is so, Father ; for so it seemeth good in thy sight!
Still we see the gospel hid from many who are esteemed the wisest and most prudent of mankind; and, blessed be God, we still see it revealed to some, who, in comparison of them, are but babes. Let not this offend us; but rather taking our notions from the word of God, let us learn to honour these babes as possessed of the truest wisdom, and adore the riches of Divine grace, if we are in their number, while many of superior capacities are left to stumble at this stone till they fall into final ruin.
Whatever objections are brought against Christ and his ways, may we ever adhere to them, since all things are deli. vered to him by the Father ! From him therefore may we seek the true knowledge of God, as ever we desire everlasting life! We have all our burdens of sin and of sorrow !
While we labour under them, let us with pleasure hear the gentle and melodious voice of a Redeemer, thus kindly inviting us to come unto him, that we may find rest to our souls. Let us with pleasure subject ourselves to him, and go on in our holy course with that improvement and cheerfulness which become those who learn by their own daily experience that his commandments are not grievous, and feel that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
Luke vii. 36-50. And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat. And, behold a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment; and stood at his feet, behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who, and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him : for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
There was a certain creditor which had two debtors : the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me, therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss : but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint; but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.