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ably to the spirit of this maxim, Paul says, 2 Thess. iii14, &c. "and if any man obey not our words by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed; yet account him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother."
Christ concludes with saying, "I come not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." The The preceding words sufficiently shew, that sinners are not here spoken of in that common sense which embraces all men, but are mentioned as those who had hitherto lived an irregular life: by the righteous, opposed to these, we are to understand, not those who have nothing of human infirmity, but such men as Nathaniel, who was an Israelite indeed and a man without guile. Such men do not want such a call to amendment of life as the former. Christ is not treating, in this place, of the whole office committed to him as Messiah, but of that part of it which the Baptist discharged, and in which he himself was now principally employed, a call to repentance as a preparation for the kingdom of heaven. This he could not perform among men of reformed life; it was therefore necessary that he should resort to those who principally wanted that remedy. The reality of that sanctity which the Pharisees assumed to themselves, he does not here assert or deny,
1. We have here another illustrious example of the compassion of Christ. A poor unhappy man, disabled with the palsy, eager to receive a cure, but trembling with the consciousness of having brought upon himself the disorder with which he was afflicted, is taken to Jesus. Instead of upbraiding him with his faults, or increasing his terrors by threatening him with punishment, he appears to be anxious to dispel his fears,
and to banish every degree of solicitude from his breast; he addresses the trembling penitent with all the tenderness of a parent, and is careful to remove the principal load with which he was oppressed; "Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee;" how much compassion is there in these words! How reviving must they have been to the penitent, overwhelmed as he was with fear and shame on account of his sins! Thus does Jesus fulfil the character given of him by one of the prophets; "the bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench.” Isa. xlii. 3. His compassion did not, however, consist merely in kind words, like that of many others; but it was accompanied with beneficent actions----he cured the paralytic man of his disorder,
2. While we behold the miracles of Jesus, let us, after the example of the multitude, glorify God for giving such power to men. to men. It is highly honourable to God: he still appears to be the Lord of nature; he alters or suspends its laws as he pleases; he restores the dead parts of the body to life. To employ
men, only as the instruments of these effects, is highly honourable to them: it dignifies and ennobles human nature: it raises mankind to the most elevated rank, when they appear to be entrusted with such high authority. Let us not, however, so far forget the purpose for which it is bestowed as to pay divine honours to a creature; to one of the same nature with ourselves: it is God and not man that we ought to glorify upon this occasion. The work is entirely his, and could be performed by no other: let us ascribe to him all the honour. Had he done nothing more than cure an inveterate disease, it would manifest his goodness and deserve our praises: but when we consider that this miraculous cure was wrought to establish the divine mission of Christ, and to ensure to us all the blessings of the gospel-dispensation, the value of the fayour cannot be estimated.
3. Let us ever keep in mind, how much more acceptable, in the sight of God, are the moral duties of justice and mercy than any ritual observances. Mankind have always been disposed to substitute ceremonies for good actions, because they may be more exactly defined, and more easily performed. What an unhappy influence this mistake has upon the temper, may be seen in the character of the Pharisees, who, with all their exactness in observing the ceremonies of the law and in avoiding the company of sinners, were proud, covetous, suspicious, censorious, and malicious. The same superstitious attention to forms and ceremonies produces the like effect upon the minds of Christians, in the present day. If we wish to preserve ourselves from this evil, let us remember that religion consists not in outward forms; in performing the services of private or of public devotion; but in proper dispositions of mind towards God, and in justice and integrity, mercy and beneficence towards our fellowcreatures. If these duties should at any time interfere with some religious observance, as will sometimes be the case, let us not dishonour our own understandings and the religion which we profess, by preferring the form to the substance; by setting sacrifice before be neficence.
Matthew ix. 14----26.
Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?
The fasts here spoken of were of a private, and not of a public, nature. These were practised by the Pharisees, twice in the week, in order to court applause; and by the disciples of John, and other religious Jews,
very frequently. These disciples did not mean to ask Jesus the reason of their own fasting, with which they were no doubt perfectly satisfied, but why his disciples did not pursue the like practice, and fast often as well as they.
15. And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bride-chamber, or, "the companions of the bridegroom," mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast; "then will they fast,"
The children of the bride-chamber were those friends of the bridegroom, who were admitted into his chamber, to rejoice with him on the happy event of his marriage. These were thirty in number in the case of Sampson, and are called his companions*. Were these persons, when invited to the marriage-supper, to come in mourning, to abstain from food, and break out into lamentations, sobs and tears, it would be judged by all very unseasonable and absurd behaviour: but if the bridegroom should be destroyed by a sudden death, on the very day of his marriage, or soon after, there would be just cause of grief, and so much the more, as his death was not expected. Our Saviour here alludes to the appellation which John himself had given to him, calling the Messiah, the bridegroom, and himself, his friend, who rejoiced to hear his voice. John iii. 29.---Comparing himself, therefore, to the bridegroom, Christ declares that while he was with his disciples, their circumstances were such as called for joy, rather than mourning, of which fasting was the usual sign and expression; but that the time would come when he should be suddenly and unexpectedly removed from them, by his death and ascension into heaven. They would then find themselves exposed to hardships. Judges xiv. 11.
which would deprive them of the regular use of food, or lead them voluntarily to observe frequent seasons of fasting. These words contain no injunction to fast, but only foretel the evils to which his disciples would be exposed, after his death; or that they would then be in circumstances, in which their former habits and customs, as Jews, would lead them to fast. Accordingly we find Paul thus describing his situation, "even unto this present hour we hunger and thirst;" and, int another place, when speaking of his sufferings, he says, "in weariness and painfulness; in watchings often; in hunger and thirst; in fastings often." We also learn that the primitive Christians appointed seasons of fasting, on occasions of solemn prayer. So, when the church of Antioch set apart Saul and Barnabas for their work, they fasted, and prayed, and laid their hands on them, Acts xiii. 2, 3. Elders of the church were ap pointed in the same manner. Christ takes no notice; in his answer to John's disciples, of the fasting of the Pharisees, because he had delivered his sentiments upon that subject before.
16. No man putteth a piece of new cloth into an old garment: for that which is put in to fill it up, taketh from the garment; and the rent is made worse.
The idea intended to be conveyed by these words, is that of putting a patch of new cloth upon an old, rotten, garment, which, in the end, occasions a worse rent, by pulling away the parts to which it was sewed, than if it had never been sewed on at all. By this comparison Christ intimates, that it would have been imprudent for him to have imposed upon his disciples, who were come to him from the ordinary employments of life, such austerities as frequent fasting; for hereby they might conceive an invincible dislike to his religion, and abandon it entirely.
17. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles; else the bottles break;