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leaders in the Christian Church be some encouragement even to us, on whom the ends of the world are come. None but an Omnipresent, and consequently a Divine Person, could say, Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them. His power and his goodness can never be impaired; let it therefore be an encouragement to social prayer; and let the remembrance of our Redeemer's continued presence and inspection, engage us to behave ourselves agreeably to the relation that we claim to him, and to those expectations from him which we profess.
Matt. XVIII. 21—35. Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him ? till seven times ? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times : but, until seventy times seven. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which, owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his Lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the Lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not : but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? and his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not everyone his brother their trespasses.
How unreasonable and how odious does a severe and uncharitable temper appear, when we view it in the light of this parable! Yet what light can be more just than this? We are indebted to God more than ten thousand talents; from our infancy we begin to contract the debt, and are daily increasing it in our ripening years : justly, therefore, might he cast us into the prison of hell till we puid the uttermost farthing. And were we to fall at his feet, with a promise of paying him all on his patient forbearance, it must be the language of gross ignorance, or of presumptuous folly, when addressed to a Being who knows our poverty, and knows that, in consequence of it, we are utterly incapable of making him any amends. But he magnifies his grace in the kind offers of a free forgiveness ; and shall we who receive it, and hold our lives and all our hope by it, take our brethren by the throat, because they owe us a few pence? or shall we carry along with us deep continued resentment, glowing like a hidden fire in our bosoms? God forbid ! For surely if we do so, out of our own mouth shall we be condemned, while we acknowledge the justice of the sentence here passed against this cruel servant.
Christ himself has made the application : 50 shall my heavenly Father deal with you, if you do not forgive your brethren: and he has instructed us elsewhere to ask forgiveness only as we grant it. (Matt. vi. 14, 15.) Let us then from this moment discharge our hearts of every sentiment of rancour and revenge, nor ever allow a word, or even a wish, that savours of it. And as ever we hope our addresses to the throne of Divine mercy should meet with a favourable audience, let us lift up holy hands, without wrath, as well as without doubting. (1 Tim. ii. 8.)
JOHN VII. 1-13. Now the Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand. His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence and go into Judea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.–For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. For neither did his brethren believe in him. Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come; but your time is alway ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast, for my time is not yet fully come. When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee.
But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.
We see how little the greatest external advantages can do without the Divine blessing, when some of the nearest relations of Christ himself, by whom he had been most intimately known, were not prevailed upon to believe in him. Who then can wonder if some remain incorrigible in the most regular and pious families? How much more valuable is the union to him, which is founded on a cordial and obedient faith, than that which arose from the bands of nature ? and how cautiously should we watch against those carnal prejudices, by which even the brethren of Christ were alienated from him?
Our Lord, we see, used a prudent care to avoid persecution and danger, till his time was fully come; and it is our duty to endeavour, by all wise and upright precautions, to
preserve ourselves, that we may have opportunities for farther service.
In the course of such service we must expect, especially if we appear under a public character, to meet with a variety of censures ; but let us remember that Jesus himself went through evil report and good report; by some applauded as a good man, but by others, and those the greater part of his countrymen, condemned as deceiving the people. Let us learn of Christ patiently to endure such injurious treatment; and endeavour to behave ourselves so, that we may have a testimony in the consciences of men, and in the presence of God, that, after the example of our great Master, in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have our conversation in the world. (2 Cor. i. 12.) Then will our names be had in remembrance, and the honour and reward of our faithful obedience continued, when the memories of those that reviled us are perished with them.
JOHN VII. 14-24. Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent me, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me? The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee? Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel.Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision ; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers ;) and ye on the sabbath-day circumcise a man. If a man on the sabbath-day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken: are ye angry at mc, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath-day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
Let us learn of our meek and humble Master to refer the honour of all we know and do to Divine instruction communicated to us, and Divine grace working in and by us ; that, seeking the glory of God, we may have the surest evidence, that we are truly his. Let us on all occasions remember that integrity and uprightness will be a certain security to us against dangerous mistakes in matters of religion. If the light we already have, be faithfully improved, we may humbly hope that more will be given us; nor shall we then fail of convincing evidence, that the gospel-doctrine is of God; for the experience of its power on our hearts will check our passions, and destroy the prejudices, that would prevent the truth from taking place in our minds.
Let us receive his doctrine as Divine, and hearken unto Christ as sent of God; and whatsoever be the vile reproaches we may meet with from a wicked world, and the malicious designs it may form against us, let us be resolute and stedfast in the practice of the duties he has taught us, that with well-doing we may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1 Peter ii. 15.)
Our Lord was reviled as a demoniac and a lunatic: but instead of rendering railing for railing, he replied in the words of gentleness and sobriety. So let us endeavour to conquer the rudeness of those attacks we may meet with in his cause ; that we may, if possible, remove the prejudices so fatal to those that entertain them, and form men to that equitable and impartial judgment, which would soon turn all their cavils against Christ into admiration, praise, and obedience.
John VII. 25—36. Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill ? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? Howbeit we know this man whence he is : but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is. Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true,