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works of mercy, benevolence, and tender compassion : such as feeding the hungry, healing every kind of sickness and disease, giving sight to the blind, and soundness to the lame, and restoring suspended animation, to comfort a disconsolate widow or the deeply afflicted parents of an only child: works which breathe the same spirit of benevolence and universal love as the religion whose divine authority they were intended to attest, and which hold forth to all the disciples of that religion a most striking lesson of duty, to exert, on all occasions, whatever faculties they are endowed with, for the same amiable purposes of charity and beneficence. And that this suitableness of the nature of the miracles to the spirit of our religion itself was not accidental, but intentional, our Lord himself teaches us,
in the rebuke he gave to his diseiples, when, provoked by the inhospitable affront put upon their Master by some Sama. ritans, they proposed his calling down miraculous destruction upon them, like one of the Jewish prophets,
“ Ye know not,” says he, 6 what manner of spirit ye are of. For the “ son of man is not come to destroy men's
lives, but to save them.” And also by delegating to his apostles and the seventy dis
ciples, power to be exerted only in the same benevolent acts.
III. In reviewing the predictions contained in the evangelical history of Luke, the two first which present themselves, are in the concise account given us, in the third, or, as I reckon it, in the first chapter, of the preaci:ing of John the Baptist. When John asks the people, who had warned them to flee from the wrath about to come upon them ? and teaches them the only way to avoid it; and adds, even now the axe is laid at the root of the trees; he plainly intimates that the divine vengeance, denounced upon that nation by their own prophets, was fast approaching, and would actually come upon that depraved generation. A prophetic admonition of an event which it was not in the
any man to foresee by his own sagacity; but which we know' was fully and fatally accomplished, within little more than forty years: afterwards, by the intire destruction of Jerusalem, and extirpation of the Jews from their own country. The second is a prediction of the Baptist respecting the true Messiah, whom he declares himself not to be, but says
that he is coming; and instead of baptizing his disciples with water, like himself, should baptize them with the holy inspiration and with fire. This very prediction is repeated by Jesus Christ himself to his disciples, after his resurrection ;* and, by its literal completion a few days afterwards, on the memorable day of Pentecost, afforded the Apostles and first followers of our Lord a most convincing, double proof of the truth and divine authority of the mission, both of their Master and the Baptist John.
In the fifth chapter, verse 35, we find our Saviour, in the answer he gives to the question of the Scribes and Pharisees, why his disciples never fasted? wbich those of John and of the Pharisees did frequently, foretelling, that he the Bridegroom, adopting the same parabolical denomination by which he is sometimes spoken of, both in the preceding predictions of the Jewish prophets, and in the subsequent Christian prophecy of the Revelation, should be taken away from them; and that, during that separation, his disciples indeed should fast; that is, should really be in a state of humiliation, suffering, and affliction. That
* Acts i. 5.
this is our Lord's true meaning, and not that his disciples would adopt days of voluntary fasting and humiliation, as a religious observance like the Pharisees, is evident from the parable which he subjoins immediately to this answer, by which he teaches the Jews, that for him to graft his spiritual religion upon the carnal ordinances of the Mosaic ritual, would be as improper and as absurd as for a man who had purchased a new garment, instead of wearing it and laying aside his old one, to repair and patch his old garment with pieces cut out of the new; which could only spoil the new, and make a ridiculous motley of the old: And though it was no more wonderful, that they should prefer the rites and ceremonies of their Law to the simple purity of his Gospel, than that men, whose palates had been long habituated to old wine, should not immediately relish new, though perhaps of a superior quality, which they had never tasted before; yet the old ordinances and observances of their Law were as ill suited to the spirit of the religion he preached, as old, decayed, leathern bottles were, to contain new wine whose fermentation was not yet over, That fasting, in its strictest sense, made a part of the afflictions endured by his Apostles and earliest disciples, appears from Paul's enumeration of the sufferings he had endured for the Gospel's sake,* where he recounts his being in hunger and thirst, in fastings often; and therefore our Lord, by a very common figure of speech, putting a part for the whole, answers the question as if he had said, “ Fast
ing is a state of grief, affliction, and humilia« tion; and whilst I, the delegate of heaven, “ who announce to them the joyful tidings of “ the New Covenant, remain with them, such “ a state were as improper and as unnatural “ for them, as it would be for the attendants of “ the bridegroom at a marriage seast: but the “ time approaches, when I shall be removed “ from them, and during my absence, it will << be their lot to be amply grieved, humbled, 6 and afficted.” To the same purport many other prophetic admonitions, contained in this history, in the Acts and in the Apocalypse, repeatedly assert the constant state of affliction and persecution, in which the faithful, conscientious disciples of Jesus Christ would continue, from his ascension to the period of his appearing again to mankind, in
* 2 Cor. xi. 27.