« السابقةمتابعة »
salting mankind for the altar of heaven ; for as they were to be the salt of the earth, it was requisite they should themselves be filled with the spiritual salt of all the graces, and particularly the holy salt of love and peace, that they might, as far as possible, be free from the rottenness of ambition, pride, contention, and every evil work.
Pride is the source of numberless sins; and therefore the blessed Jesus cautioned his disciples in the most solemn manner, to beware of that vice; assuring them the meanest person is an object of the care of Providence ; and " that their angels do always behold the face of my heavenly Father." Our blessed Saviour did not mean by this expression, that every man who practises the duties of religion has a particular guardian auge! assigned him ; but as all angels are sent as ministering spirits, they may be called angels.
To shew the concern of his Almighty Father for the least of his reasonable creatures, and the great value he sets upon the souls of the human race, our Saviour told them, that he not only gave his higher angels charge concerning them, but had also sent his only begotten Son, to seek and to save that which was lost ; and would share in the joy which heavenly beings are filled with on their recovery. "How think ye? if a man have a hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains and seeketh thnt which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, Verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish." Matt, xviii. 12, 13, 14.
Having thus addressed the offending party, he turned himself towards his disciples, Mnd gave them instructions, with regard to the offended. " If thy brother shall trespass
against thee, Go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen an publican." Matt. xviii. 15, 16, 17.
Try every possible measure to reclaim thy brother, and in order to effect this, represent his fault to him privately. If this rebuke have the desired effect, thou hast brought him back to the paths which lead to happiness, but, if this gentle method fail, two or more grave persons should join in the rebuke, that he may be convinced of the injury he has done thee. If he still remain obstinate, tell his offence to the church, whose sentence willsufllciently shew that thou hast done thy duty, and that he alone is to blame. But if he is so hardened as not to be affected by the censure of the church, he is from henceforth to be treated as the Pharisees treat the Heathens and Publicans; namely, as an incorrigible sinner, whose company and conversation, being contagious, ought to be shunned by all who have any love for virtue and religion.
OurSaviour now confers the special power which he confined to Peter on all his disciples. "Verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Matt, xviii. 18. That is, ye have free power to preach remission of sins through faith in the gospel, and repentance unto life, and such decree will remain valid in the court of heaven, though passed here below.
But, on the other hand, if the offending brother continue impenitent after all the methods above described are fried, bis guilt is bound the faster upon him; because, by the pvecepts of tfie gospel, nqne but penitents,c>tti obtain pardon.
Our blessed Saviour also abided, as an encouragement io good men, that it they continued earnest in their endeavour to bring sinners to repentance, and offered up their prayers to the Almighty for assistance, he would always grant theirpetitions, provided they were agreeable to the wise ends of his providence. "Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree.on earth.as touching any thing tiiat t^ey shall uek, it shall be done for them of my father which is in heaven. For wliere two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them/' Matt, xviii. 19, 20.
Peter had before heard his Master speak of the doctrine of frequent forgiveness, and imagined that What he had now so strongly inculcated might prove dangerouslosociety; and therefore thought it his duty io offer his objections, "Lord (said he) how oft shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him, till seven times?" Matt, xviii. 2J. He thought it a strange doctrine which obliged him to forgive offences seven times repeated; but our blessed Saviour told him that he was very greatly mistaken; that he never intended to limit forgiveness seven times, but that it ought to be extended even to seventy timesseven.
This excellent moral precept he enforced by the parable of the two servants, debtors to one Lord; in order to shew the necessity of forgiving the greatest injuries in every case where the offending party is sensible of his fault,, and promises amendment, because on this condition alone, our heavenly Father will forgive our offences. "Therefore (said the blessed Jesus) is the kingdom of heaven likened to a certain king that would take account of his servants.'' God is the great king and Sovereigu of all creatures, and all are accountable to him, as servants to a master. He will reckon with all:
and happy a,re they who live sensible of this importaut truth. When he had l»egun to reckon, one servant Whs brought unto him who owed hin: an iinmcn.se debt, ten thousand talents, a debt much greater . ban he was . able tq pay. His lord, therefore, commanded him, agreeable to the custom of those times, to be sold for a slave, and "his wite and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made."
The servant, convinced of the justice of the: sentence, and kuowiug he had nothing to hope for, but from the .mercy and clemency of his lord, fell down in the most humble manner, and importunately besought him, saying, "Lord have patience with me and I will pay thee all." The master, moved with compassion towards him,accepted of his humiliation: and to make his happiness complete, loosed him from the sentence, inflicted,and freely forgave him the enormous debt; an obligation surely sufficient to have melted the hardest heart into gratitude towards his lord, and the tenderest sympathy towards any of his brethren in distress. But alas! who is acquainted with the human heart? This very servant went out from the presence of his compassionate lord, and found one of his fellowservants who owed him an hundred pence: a poor, inconsiderable debt, in comparison of what he had himself owed his lord.
But behold the base inhumanity of this servant: he laid hands on the poor debtor, seizing him violently by the throat, and saying, '' Pay me that thou owest." His fellow-servant fell down at his feet, even as he had just before done at the feet of his lord, and besought him in the very same words he himself had so lately used, "Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all." Such a similarity of circumstances one would have thought must have affected his stony heart, brought to remembrance his own late distress, and melted his soul into the like generous compassion which had flowed so sweetly from his lord to him. But his conduct was the very reverse: he would have no patience, he would shew no pity ; he went and cast the unhappy debtor into prison till he should pay the debt.
His fellow-servants, when they saw what was done, were exceedingly afflicted, and came and told their lord the whole transaction. Upon which he summoned the unmerciful servant to appear before him; and tilled with indignation and abhorrence, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, how perverse is thy behaviour, how ungrateful and base thy proceeding; "I forgave thee all the debt," that enormous debt thou bwest me :: " because thou desiredstme:" I was moved to clemency and compassion by thy intreatiesand distress, and " shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on thee?" Shouldest not thou much rather have forgiven him, who was thy fellow-servant, and owed thee so small a sum, when I, thy king and lord, had forgiven thee so immense a debt?
Having thus expostulated with him, his wrath was kind led, and he " delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise (added the Son of God) shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, ifye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.". Matt, xviii. 34, 35. And surely this awful threatening ought to strike the minds of fierce and implacable men with terror. For whatever they may think, it will certainly, in its full extent, be inflicted upon all who refuse to obey the dictates of divine mercy, and forgive not only their fellow-servants, but every brother in Christ, who through weakness or inadvertence may have done them an injury either in person or property.
Our blessed Lord attends for the fourth Time the Celebration of the Passover at Jerusalem. Harangues the Multitude at the solemn Feast of Tabernacles. Exempts the Woman detected in Adultery from the Punishment annexed by the Jews to that Crime. Escapes from the Snares laid for him by the inveterate Scribes and Pharisees.
TM1HE great Redeemer having promoted -*- his Father's work in Galilee, departed into Judea, passing through the country beyond Jordan, that the Jews who inhabited those distant parts, might enjoy the unspeakable benefits of his discourses and miracles. After sowing the seeds of eternal life, and publishing the glad tidings of salvation in those remote countries, he repaired to Jerusalem to celebrate the fourth passover; but the malignity of the scribes and pharisees, was so great, that he stayed but a short time in the capital; and then returned into Galilee, where the multitude again resorted to him, and he again instructed them in the paths that lead to everlasting life.
The feast of the tabernacles now drew on, at which all the males of the Jewish nation, capable of travelling, repaired to Jerusalem, and dwelt in the tabernacles or booths made of the boughs of trees, in commemoration of their fathers having had no other habitation, during their forty years' sojourning in the wilderness. To this feast some of the kinsmen of the blessed Jesus desired he would accompany them, and there shew himself openly to the whole nation of theJews. They did not themselves believe that he was the great Prophet so lono- expected: andthereforecondemned the method he pursued in his public ministry as altogether absurd.
They could not conceive what reasons he had for spending so much of his time in the deserts, and remote corners of the kingdom, while he professed so public a character as. that of the Redeemer of Israel. Jerusalem, the seat of power, was in their opinion, much the properest place for him to deliver his doctrines, and work his miracles in the most public manner possible, before the great and learned men of the nation, whose decision in his favour would have great weight in increasing the number of his disciples, and inducing the whole nation to own him for the Messiah.' "Depart hence, and go into Judea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou dpest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seekelh to be known openly; If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. For neither did his brethren believe in him." John vii. 3,4,5.
Our Lord well knew the rancorous prejudice of the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and therefore did not think. proper to reside among them any longer than was absolutely necessary. They had more than once attempted .his life, and therefore very little hopes remained that they would believe his miracles, or embrace his -doctrine; but, on the contrary, the greatest'' reason to think they would destroy him, if possible, before he had finished the work which he came into the world to perform. "My time (said our Saviour to these unbe-' lieving relations) is not yet come ; but your time is always 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, for my time is not yet full come." John vii. 6, 7, 8. As if he had said, it is not proper for me to go before the feast begins; but you may retire tothecapitalwheneveryou please: TheJews are your friends, you have done nothing to displease them: but the purity of the doctrines I have preached to them, and the freedom with which I have reproved their hypocrisy, and other enormous crimes, have provoked their malice to the utmost height;
and therefore as the time of my sufferings is not yet come, it is not prudent for me to go so soon to Jerusalem.
There was also another reason why our blessed Saviour refused to accompany these relations to the feast of tabernacles: the roads were crowded with people, and these gathering round him, and accompanying him to Jerusalem, would doubtless have given fresh offence to his enemies, and in a great measure have prevented his miracles and doctrines from having the desired effect. He therefore chose to continue in Galilee, till the crowd were all gone up to Jerusalem, when he followed, as if. were, in secret, neither preaching nor working miracles by the. way ; so that no crowd attended him to the feast.
As Jesus did not go up openly to Jerusalem, so neither did he on his arrival, repair to the temple, and there preach openly to the people. Thisgaveoccasion foseveral disputes among the Jews with regard to his character. Some affirmed that he was a true prophet; and that his absenting himself from the feast could be owing only to accident •: while others as confidently asserted, that he only deceived the people, and paid no regard to the institutions they had received from heaven. , .
Bat about the middle of the feast, Jesus appeared openly in the temple, and taught the people, delivering his doctrines with such strength of reason and elegance of expression that his very enemies were astonished, knowing that he had never enjoyed the advantage of a learned education. "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?" John vii. 14, 1.5.
To which the great Redeemer of mankind replied, my doctrine was not produced by human wisdom ; the sages of the world were not my instructors;: I received it from heaven, it is jthe doctrine of the Almighty, whose messenger I am. "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me." John
viir id. ., i. '.;,.,, ,
Nor can he who is desirous of practising the doctrines I deliver, if he will lay aside his prejudices, and sincerely desire to be taught of God, be at a loss to know from whom ray doctrines are derived: because he will easily discern whether they are conformable to the will of man or of God. It is no difficulty to discover an impostor, because all his precepts will tend to advance his own interest, and gratify his pride. •Whereas all the doctrines delivered by a true prophet, have no other end than the glory of God, however contrary they may. prove to himself. "He that speaketli of himself, seeketh his Own glory ; but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in trim." John vii. 18.j u "1 : '. •"'•H *
Our Lord was. upbraided with impiety by some of the Jews, because he bad healed on the Sabbath,the impotent man in one of the porches of Bethesda, which they'pretended was a violation of the law of Moses, and consequently what no prophet would be guilty of. In answer to which, our Saviour told them, that however they might pretend to renounce the authority of Moses and his law, they made no scruple of violating the most sacred: of his precepts: they had resolved to put hiin to death, directly contrary to every law of God and man; and in order to execute their detestable scheme, were laving plots against his life. • . ' .
The people replied, "Thou hast a devil, who goeth about to kill thee." To which Jesus answered, I have done a miracle of an extraordinary kind on the Sabbath-day, which you think inconsistent with the character of a pious man ; and therefore wondered how 1 could perform it. But surely,
Moses gave you the law of circumcision, and you make no scruple of performing that ceremony on the Sabbath-day, because it is a precept both of Moses and the fathers. Since, therefore, ye think yourselves bound to dispense with the strict observance of the Sabbath, in order to form a ceremonial precept, can you be angry with me, because in order to fulfil the great end of all the divine law, I have cured a man who was infirm in all his members, and even with far less bodily labour than you perform the ceremony of circumcision? Consider, therefore, the nature of the thing; divest yourselves of your prejudices, and the superstitious opinions taught by your elders, aud judge impartially. "Moses, tiierefore, 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 me because I have made a man every whit whole on the Sabbath-day? "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment." John vii* 22, 23, 24. .i. :,
Notwithstanding the strength of this argument, several of our blessed Saviour's inveterate enemies asked, with sarcastical surprize, if the boldness of Jesus, and the silence of the rulers proceeded from their being convinced that he was the Messiah, and at the same time, to deride his pretensions to that high character, said that they were acquainted both with his parents and relations: but that no man when Christ appeared, would be able to tell from whence he came, founding their opinion on these words of the prophet Isaiah, "Who shall declare his generation ?" Isajahliii. 8. To which the blessed Jesus answered, that their knowing his parents.and relations was no reason against his having the prophetical character of the Messiah. Adding, lam not come of myself, but sent from heaven by God, ,who,has uttered nothing by his servants the_prophets concerning the