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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 praise-worthy 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, He, whose name we bear, would have listened to a proposal to viclate his custom, and make the hour of the devotions of the synagogue, the hour of walking into corn fields!
The historian is here singularly minute, and gives wonderful vivacity, to his representation, by going into a derail of particulars. Among these, we must advert to his posture and attitude, when employed in reading to the people the word of God. He stood 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 not dissent only where conscience is concerned, and where compliance would be criminal.
How melancholy is it 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, sitting 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.
He 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, descended from age to age in equal purity, weight and measure: and the son sees, reads and apprehends the self-same 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 by 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 impression of sacred and interesting truth! We 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. For the proper 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 which Providence especially 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 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 effusion of the Spirit, the Spirit of power, of wisdom, of holiness, which rested upon him without measure; 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 pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron;" to execute the righteous judgment 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. "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 sober minded, 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 which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God:"-to 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." "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 fathers 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 prodi