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you food and raiment: "he sends rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." But these are not the life of the soul. He sends what the immortal spirit needs, what sinful man requires: he sends the glorious Gospel of his grace; the joyful news of pardon, peace, and heaven. He hath not thus favoured all the dwellers on the earth: are you therefore to infer that you are more worthy than others? No: infer, rather, that you are much more highly privileged than millions of your kind; and that, as your advantages rise, your obligations, in exact proportion, do the same. Exalted to heaven, take heed lest you be cast down to hell; for, if you sink into perdition from the elevated station to which you are raised, tremendous indeed must be the fall!
2. What is the regard which you are giving to this message? Are you hearing it? Yes, you are doing this frequently: you may be regularly in your seats when the Gospel is preached; and perhaps very few are addicted to sleep on these occasions. You are hearing; but is it in the sense of the text? In what manner, in what spirit, are you doing so? Is it with that close attention which the greatness of the Gospel demands? Is it with that cordial affection which the goodness of the Gospel invites? Is it with the believing application of these things to yourselves, as coming home to your own case; and, with obedient compliance, embracing and closing in with them? These are not questions of light importance, for they are "your life."-Are you hearing the word, with humble prayer for Divine teaching, and for the effusion of that sacred Influence by which "our Gospel" may come to you, "not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost?" The Lord opened the heart of Lydia: you have thought of that
act of power and grace; and have you not been encouraged? He has done the same for many within the circle of your knowledge: you see them very different characters from what they formerly were; and does not this revive you? Beseech the Lord the Saviour, by his Spirit, to open your heart: then you will attend, not to external hearing only, not merely to the sound of a man's voice, but to "the things which are spoken:" you will so "hear," as that your soul shall live!"
Lastly, we inquire,
3. What is your experience of this advantage? Does your soul live, or does it not? Is it in a state of spiritual life, or of spiritual death? There is no middle state: it must be in either one or the other. Examine yourselves. If your soul lives to God, it dies to sin, and becomes increasingly indifferent to this present evil world; and is this what you find? No man that loves you would, on any account, that you should be strangers to the life of God in the soul. Nothing in the universe can compensate for the want of this. Unless your soul lives, you are dead in the worst sense; and what awaits you in a future world, but darkness the most dismal, and death eternal!
You that know something of spiritual life, be concerned to know more. Labour to enter more fully into what is meant by vital godliness; to experience for yourselves closer fellowship with God, growing conformity to him, more decided devotedness to his service and praise. In the enjoyment of this, your soul shall so live on earth, as to live in heaven. There is "the Fountain of life;" and "in His presence is fulness of joy: at his right hand are pleasures for evermore!"
THE EXCOMMUNICATED MAN.
JOHN ix. 35-38.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe; and he worshipped him.
THAT which in itself is evil may be productive of good; and affliction is frequently rich with blessings. It is doubtless an affliction to be born blind, yet this may be for the honour of Christ: it is painful to be persecuted by men, yet this may lead to the special favour of God: it is trying to suffer in our worldly circumstances, and temporal comfort, yet the deepest poverty may be abundantly compensated by spiritual and eternal consolation.
All this we see confirmed in the case of the man referred to in the text. He was born blind, and in this afflictive state he had remained many years. At length, by the power and compassion of the Lord Jesus, the faculty of sight was restored. But this miracle was performed on the Sabbath-day; a cir
cumstance which constituted no crime: the Pharisees, however, could easily construe it into one: they pretended that it was wrong, and availed themselves of this pretence to justify their cruel and impious behaviour. The man, whose sight had been restored, was brought before the Jewish sanhedrim, or council. A long examination took place, and much was said on both sides. In reading the chapter at your leisure, you will witness, in the man, good plain sense, honest simplicity, and cogent argument; but in the Pharisees, who formed the council, nothing but haughty pride, obstinate unbelief, the most inveterate malice against Jesus Christ, and all this under a shew of religion.
Finding themselves completely baffled by the strong reasoning of the illiterate man, their resentment rose to an immoderate height, and in their words and actions appeared sufficiently plain. "They answered and said unto him," in the verse preceding the text, "Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out." It is no new thing for bad men in power, when they cannot gain their point by fair means, to force it by foul ones. Secular authority is often employed to accomplish what reason and equity decidedly condemn.
From the words first read we propose to consider The afflictive SITUATION of this man-The attentive REGARD of Jesus Christ towards him-The interesting CONVERSATION which passed between them-and The PLEASING RESULT of the whole.
May we all learn something useful! and, by the help of the Holy Spirit, may we cherish those views and feelings which shall conduce to our highest good!
I. The AFFLICTIVE SITUATION OF THIS MAN. It is implied in the words, "they cast him out.”— When we reflect on the temper of these Pharisees; how their pride was mortified, and their passion excited; we do not wonder at the most rude and brutal treatment. Possibly they drave him out of their presence excluded him instantly from their assembly, as not worthy to be near them, and scarcely fit to live.
But the meaning is, they excommunicated him. It was a judicial act, though extremely rash and unwarranted. Excommunication, among the Jews, was of different kinds, or inflicted in various degrees, according to the supposed criminality of the offender. Excommunication from the synagogue, which is what is here intended, was not only the loss of religious reputation, but exclusion from the usual commerce, and separation from all friendly intercourse with society: it included a variety of degrading and painful privations, which rendered a person thus "cast out an object of universal contempt and abhorrence. This excommunication was, in the first instance, for the term of thirty days; but it depended on the pleasure of those who inflicted the punishment to protract it to any length of time, and even to the end of life. A man dying under this disgrace was denied the rites of common burial: no public mourning was allowed, nor any procession to his grave; and a stone was cast upon his coffin or bier, in token that he deserved to be stoned to death.
This was excommunication: and in a condition so degraded was this poor man. That these Pharisees, who passed the censure, acted a most unfair and cruel part, is evident; for he had done nothing worthy of such punishment. They, indeed, had made an arbi