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How wonderful a choice does Jesus make of those who were to be the chief ministers in his kingdom! Surely the same Divine power which prevailed on these honest fishermen to leave their little all, to follow him, could with equal ease have subdued the hearts of the greatest and wisest of the nation, and have engaged them to have attended him in all his progress through the country, with the exactest observance and the humblest reverence: but he chose rather to preserve the humble form in which he at first appeared, that thus he might answer the schemes of Providence, and by the weak things of the world confound them that are mighty. (1 Cor. i. 27.)
Yet we may observe that he does not go to call them that stood all the day idle; but, on the contrary, confers this honour upon honest industry; on them that had been toiling all the night in the proper duties of their station, and profession in life. Let us pursue our business with vigilance and resolution; assuring ourselves that, however mean it be, Christ will graciously accept us in it; and let us fix our dependance on his blessing, as absolutely necessary to our success.
These pious fishermen let down their nets at Christ's word, and it was not in vain. How vast was that power which brought such a multitude of fishes into it! but how much greater and more apparently Divine was the energy which, by the ministration of one of these illiterate men, converted at once a much greater number of souls, and turned the despisers and murderers of Christ into his adorers! (See Acts ii. 41.)
Blessed Jesus, we would humbly bow ourselves before thee as the Lord of nature and of grace; and instead of saying with Peter, Depart from us, for we are sinful men, we would rather say, “Lord, for that very reason, while we own ourselves most unworthy of thy presence, we most importunately entreat it: Come unto me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man, and if thou stand at a distance from me, I perish! Come, and recover my heart from the tyranny of sin; come, and possess and fix it for thyself!'
That secret power which these good men felt on their souls while the words of Christ were sounding in their ears would be to them a token for good as to the success of their ministry upon others. Surely we cannot wish any thing of greater importance for the edification of the church, than that the persons who are employed in its public offices may themselves experimentally know the power of Divine grace, and be brought to a determination to follow Christ whithersoever he goeth, before they undertake to invite and persuade others to do it.
SECTION XXIX. MATT. VIII. 2-4.-MARK 1. 40–45,-LUKE v. 12–16. And behold, there came a man full of leprosy, who seeing Jesus, and kneeling down unto him, fell on his face, worshipped him, and besought him, saying unto him, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will, be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed. And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away: and saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, and so much the more went there a fame abroad of him : insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city: For great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. But he withdrew himself, and was without in desert places, and prayed: and they came to him from every quarter.
Our souls are overspread with the leprosy of sin; and where should we apply for help but to the healing power and recovering grace of the great Redeemer. Be the malady ever so deep, spreading or inveterate, we may surely adopt the words of the leper before us, and say, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And how much reason have we to hope this compassion will be moved in our favour, and his power exerted in our cure !
If we have received that favour, we are under the obligation of no command to conceal it. It is, on the contrary, our duty most gratefully to publish it abroad, for the honour of our Benefactor, and the advantage of those who may be encouraged to make the same application in humble hope of the same success.
But when will the happy time come that men shall be as solicitous about their spiritual welfare as about the health of this mortal body ? Almighty Physician ! exert thine energy in this instance as a token of farther favours ! Convince men of their pollution and danger, and bow their stubborn knee, that it may bend in submissive and importunate supplication!
Let the compassionate air with which this cure was wrought, be considered by all spiritual physicians as a lesson of condescension and tenderness; and let the modesty, with which it was conducted engage us to avoid every appearance of ostentation and vain glory.
To conclude ; since Christ himself found it proper to retire into a desert place to pray, when crowds of admirers were flocking in upon him, let it teach those who are engaged in the scenes of public business and fill them up with the greatest applause, yet resolutely to command some seasons for retirement; as remembering, that the more various and important our public labours are, the more evidently do we need to draw down succour by ardent prayer, that we may be strengthened and prospered in them.
SECTION XXX. MATT. IX. 248.- MARK II. 1-12.-Luke v. 17–26. And again he entered into Capernaum after some days, and it was noised that he was in the house. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door : and he preached the word unto them. And it came to pass, on a certain day, as he was teaching, there were Pharisees, and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them. And behold, men came unto him, bringing a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed, which was borne of four. And they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, nor find by what way they might bring him in, because of the multitude, they went upon the house, top, uncovered the roof where he was, and when they had broken it up, they let him down through the tiling with his couch, into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, . Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee. And behold, certain of the Scribes and Pharisees sitting there began to reason within themselves, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies! Who can forgive sins but God alone? And immediately, when Jesus perceived in his spirit, that they so reasoned within themselves, knowing their thoughts, he, answering, said unto them, Why reason ye these things ? Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts ? For whether is it easier, to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk ? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up his bed, and went forth before them all, and departed to his own house, glorifying God, insomuch that when the moltitude saw it, they marvelled, and were all amazed, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men, and were filled with fear, saying, We never saw it on this fashion, We have seen strange things to-day,
It is a pleasure to reflect upon it that Christ was attended by such vast numbers of people, and that they who were teachers of others should themselves sit down to hear him. But it is melancholy to reflect on the perverse purposes with which many of them came; and how few did, on the whole, receive his word into their hearts, so as to bring forth fruit unto perfection. Curiosity led some, and interest others ; and some came to find occasion of hurting him whose whole business in life was to do good. Yet these low, these vile purposes did not prevent his preaching and working miracles before them, and being ready to exert his power for their benefit. Thus courageous and resolute let us be in the dis. charge of our duty; thus solicitous, that we may not be overcome of evil, but may (which, on the whole, is always in some degree practicable) overcome evil with good. Rom. xii. 21. How industrious were the attendants and friends of this poor paralytic to obtain a cure for him! What contrivance, what labour did they use to find a proper opportunity to bring him in, and lay him before Jesus. Ought we not to be as tender and zealous in all the offices of the truest friendship; and to imitate, so far as suits the difference of cir. cumstances, their importunate application and their lively faith?
Theirs had its praise and its reward. Our Lord said to this distempered person, Thy sins are forgiven thee. He pardoned all his iniquities, while he healed all his diseases. Ps. ciii. 3. This was a blessing that would render the cure yet incomparably more valuable; and this reviving declaration had the Son of God a power to add and to pronounce. The scribes and Pharisees, ignorant and prejudiced as they were, considered such a declaration as blasphemy. Their principle indeed was right, that God alone has power to forgive sins, and it is impious for men to claim it; but their application was evidently wrong. The miraculous effect plainly shewed the Divine authority of the blessed Jesus. And he has still the key of David; he openeth and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth. Rev. iii. 7. Almighty Saviour, may we each of us receive from thee forgiveness of our sins; and we will not complain though our sicknesses should not imme. diately be removed ! Let us glorify God who has given this power to his Son; and thankfully acknowledge that we are ourselves, in many respects, the monuments both of his pardoning and healing mercy.
SECTION XXXI. Matt. 1x. 9—17.-MARK 11.13—22.-Luke v. 27-39. And after these things he went forth again by the sea side, and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them. And as he passed forth from thence, he saw a publican, named Matthew or Levi, the son of Alpheus, sitting at the receipt of custom : and he said unto him, Follow me. And he left all, rose up, and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: And it came to pass, that as Jesus sat at meat, behold, a great company of publicans and sinners came, and sat down also with him and his disciples, for there were many, and they followed him. But when the Scribes and