« ForrigeFortsæt »
are, at once, public and private measures of duration. Every act of the state is dated by the year of the sovereign's reign. But human life admits not of a repetition of those more distinguished periods. They are remembered and referred to because they are rare. Were every day to exhibit a state-trial, hardly any, except the parties and their connections, would care to attend it, or think of setting a mark upon it.
There is one life, however, of which every hour is an epoch, of which every act is decisive, of which every event is highly and universally interesting, and of which every period is a "fulness of time." Of this life each instant, each incident, every progressive step, furnishes a theme for the tongues, for the pens of thousands of thousands of men and angels, and, when their stores are exhausted, it presents a subject as new, as important, as unbounded as it was at the beginning. The beloved disciple, having thrown his mite of information into the public treasury, concludes his gospel with declaring his belief, his deliberate conviction that the history of the life and actions of his divine master was a subject infinite and inexhaustible. "There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written ;" meaning undoubtedly, that the things which Jesus said and did were so many, so extraordinary, so significant, so efficient, as infinitely to exceed human comprehension and belief. But wherefore should the expression of the evangelist be considered as hyperbolical, when we are told that these are the "things which the angels desire to look into; and when we reflect on the burthen of the eternal song of the redeemed, in heaven, "I heard," says John, "the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the living creatures, and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands: saying with a loud voice,
worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever."
From the marriage in Cana of Galilee, Jesus again "went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days.". How those days were employed we have seen in the preceding lecture: in conducting the service of the synagogue, in cultivating the charities of private life, in secret devotion, in healing the sick, in casting out devils, in preaching the kingdom of God. Having made a progress of teaching and preaching over the cities and synagogues of Galilee, He now, for the first time since he assumed a public character, went up to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of passover. Preserving the order of events as accurately as an attentive comparison of evangelist with evangelist enables us, we are now to contemplate an incident in our Lord's history marked with very peculiar features, and presenting a new and instructive opening into his character, namely, his purgation of the temple from the impurities with which it was profaned by an impious and infamous traffic.
From his earliest years the commanded solemnities of that sacred place were punctually observed. Whatever the law enjoined was to his infant state duly performed. While under parental authority, particularly when it led to the house and worship of God, he respectfully submitted to it. In the maturity of age, voluntary and cheerful obedience to the ordinances of heaven distinguished the great exemplar of decency and order. Through the goodness of God, we are delivered from all burdensome and costly attendance on
the service of the temple. We are not called to wait upon God with rams and calves of a year old. Our husbandmen, manufacturers and merchants are not summoned, under severe penalties, several times in the year, to join in the worship of the metropolitan church, at a great expense of time and substance. Is therefore the service of the christian sanctuary worthless and contemptible? Do we therefore requite the Lord of the sabbath with neglect and ingratitude? Do we therefore snuff at his bloodless sacrifices, and say, "Behold, what a weariness is it? and bring that which is torn, and the lame, and the sick for an offering?" Dare christian parents set the example to their children and dependants of irreligion and profanity, and, because they are set free from a costly ceremonial, and a superstitious observance of the sabbath, will they claim and assume an exemption from the offices and the spirit of piety, devotion and gratitude? Liberated from an intolerable yoke of iron, disdain they to wear the honourable, the golden chains of love?
The Jewish ritual was at this period vilely profaned, and was rapidly hastening to dissolution. But so long as it is in force, our blessed Lord condescends to be the pattern of attention and respect to it. And yet, What a scene did the house of God then present! The forms of religion remained, but the power and glory had departed. The letter of the law was still held in affected veneration, but the spirit was completely evaporated. The sacrifices of the living and true God were shamefully prostituted to gratify the most sordid of human passions, godliness was perverted into a mere instrument of filthy lucre, and the house of prayer was degraded into a den of thieves. And such is the fearful progress of moral corruption. Ferver gradually subsides into lukewarmness, and lukewarmness into cold. Indifference soon becomes mere formality, and formality is but a step from total neglect. Neglect degenerates into hatred and aversion,
and an unhallowed zeal at length attempts to destroy what a zeal according to godliness once endeavoured to build up. What can be more opposite and unlike than devout worshippers engaged in a holy contention of gratitude, praise and love, striving who should present the most acceptable sacrifice to the Father of spirits and carnal, worldly-minded formalists trying to over-reach one another; the one eager to purchase the ox or the sheep for his offering at as cheap a rate as possible, and the other to sell it at the highest price. And the very court of the temple is made the open theatre of this abominable commerce.
Before thou liftest up thy hand, O man, to scourge out those impious, sordid, profane Jews, pause, and look into thine own heart. Is no unholy traffic going on there? Knowest thou not that thine own body is the temple of the living God? Whose altar, then, is reared up in that sacred edifice of God's own building; and what incense smokes upon it? Say is the name of Mammon inscribed there? Does sensuality there cele-, brate no nocturnal revels? What shall the palace of the great King be transformed into "a cage of every unclean and hateful bird!". Or, with the superstitious Athenian, art thou ignorantly bowing down before an "unknown God?" Thou regularly observest the hour, and frequentest the house of prayer; but is there no table of "the money-changer" lurking in some obscure corner? Didst thou leave the world at the door on coming in? Why wander these eyes abroad over thy neighbour's garb and appearance? They ought to be fixed on "thy Father who is in secret," and who "seeth in secret." Dost thou too "offer the sacrifice
of fools ?" Darest thou approach the altar of God, conscious that thou art not yet reconciled to thy brother? The gift in thy hand is polluted; presume not to offer it. "Leave it before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."
It was the court of the Gentile which this scandalous trade thus shamefully profaned, by the buying and selling of sheep, and oxen, and doves; and by the exchange of foreign for current coin, and of money of a higher for that of a lower denomination. And thus not only was the worship of the great Jehovah debased and perverted, but the minds of decent and devout strangers, who "had come to Jerusalem for to worship," must have been grievously shocked and scandalized, to the utter extinction of every serious and devotional impression. This it was which excited a holy and just indignation in the Son of God; in beholding the temple violated, the sacrifices of God defiled, and a stumbling block laid in the way of proselytes, by men invested with a sacred character.
"And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; and said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house, a house of merchandize." This discloses a new and singular exhibition of our blessed Lord's spirit and temper. No personal injury or insult could provoke one expression of resentment. He "gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair he hid not his face from shame and spitting:" you have heard of the meekness of Moses, and of the patience of Job. But what are they to the patience, meekness and gentleness of Christ? Nevertheless these gracious qualities have a boundary. There are occacions where the exercise of them would cease to be virtue, and where man would "do well to be angry." Wanton deliberate profanation of the name, the day, the house of the Lord, is one of those occasions which justify severity. A commanding dignity, an irresistable glory must have occasionally beamed from the person of our Lord, which overawed and intimidated the beholder. How is it possible otherwise to account for