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this prince of dæmons, called by the name of Beelzebub, was. We are there told, 2 Kings, i. 2. that Ahaziah, when ill, sent messengers; and said unto them, “Go, enquire of Beelzebub, the God of Ekron, whether Í shall recover of this disease.” Fro.n this passage it clearly appears that Beelzebub was a God of the Philistines, and had a temple and oracle at Ekron. Now Beelzebub, being a heathen dæmon or deity, could be no other than a deified human spirit; for such were all the heathen dæmons, who were the more immediate objects of the public established worship. This heathen God had, for some reason or other, which we are not acquainted with, acquired the distinction of being the prince of the possessing dæmons, and was regarded in this light by the Pharisees. Not being able to deny the reality of the miracle performed upon the dæmoniac, they endeavoured to destroy the evidence which it afforded of the divine mission of Christ, by attributing the cure, not to the power of God which resided in Christ, but to some connection which he maintained with the prince of the possessing dæmons, who, having authority over them all, enabled Jesus to cast out whom he pleased. Christ gives no reply to this foolish objection which the Pharisees made to his miracles, at present; but we find that when they renewed it, upon a similar occasion, he said, "a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand;" that is, a prince and his subjects cannot be supposed at variance with each other, and carrying on opposite designs: for if they are, it will prove the destruction of the kingdom.
35. And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness, and every disease, among the people.
Synagogues were, for the most part, confined to cities; to which, all that were within the territories of those cities resorted: but it may be collected from this verse that some were fixed in the larger and more populous towns. Christ took the advantage which these buildings afforded him, wherever there were any, to preach to the people.
36. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted and were scattered abroad; or, as the passage would be better rendered, “because they were scattered abroad and neglected,” as sheep having no shepherd.
The Jews had many teachers amongst them; Scribes and Pharisees and lawyers; but these men were more attentive to their own interests and to their own private emolument than to the benefit of the people. The teachers were divided into different sects; each of them equally departing from the Scriptures, and substituting human interpretations for the divine law. When Jesus beheld the crowds of people that followed him from all parts of the country, and considered the ignorance and darkness into which they were sunk, the scene before his eyes reminded him of a flock of sheep, scattered abroad without any shepherd to take care of them, and filled his benevolent mind with compassion. This is an image often made use of in Scripture, to express the most deplorable state. Thus Moses, Numb. xxvii. 16, 17. entreats God, “to set a man over the congregation, which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd.” If the shepherd seek only his own benefit, and not that of the flock, it is the same thing, with regard to them, as if there were no shepherd: on the other hand, the good shepherd seeks the benefit of his flock, in preference to his own advantage, and even hazards his life to promote it. “I am the good shephere," says Christ; "the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep
As the father knoweth me, even so know I the father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John x. 11, 19.
37. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous; but the labourers are few.
Christ now passes from the image of sheep to that of a field covered with corn ready to be cut down. The multitude which followed him led him to make this reflection. He compares Judæa and the neigbouring countries to a field covered with ears of corn, already ripe, and in which nothing is wanting but reapers to put in the sickle, and to reap.
38. Pray ye therefore the lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.
By sending forth labourers is not here meant, raising up teachers, in the common course of Providence, for the instruction of mankind; but conferring special powers, gifts and commands upon men, and sending them out to teach; in the same manner as Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah and others were formerly sent. count in the next chapter admirably connects with these words: for there Christ does that very thing with his disciples, which he directs them here to pray for.
From the earnestness with which these two blind men entreat Christ to have mercy upon them, we may learn the value of the faculty of vision which they had lost. It is the noblest and most important of the senses with which we are furnished; not only necessary to guard us from danger, and to direct our steps in pursuing and performing the business of life; but likewise the source of much of our knowledge, and of some of the most delightful pleasures. It is this which enables us to behold the charming light of the sun, and the beautiful face of nature; the pleasing verdure with which the earth is every where adorned; the variegated prospect; the wide-extended plain; the towering mountain; the flowing stream, and the majestic ocean. It is with this sense that we contemplate the lofty canopy of heaven, and discern in it distant worlds, at rest or in motion, beautiful to the eye, and conveying to the mind illustrious evidence of the power
and universal presence of the Deity. Nor let it be reckoned the least of the pleasures which the sight affords us, that by it we discern the countenances of men, and the smiles of friendship and affection. How thankful should we be to God, for bestowing upon us at first, and for continuing to us without interruption, the use of so important a faculty; especially when we consider the delicate structure of the eve, and the numerous injuries to which it is liable! How ready should we be to pity and shew mercy to those who are deprived of sight, and condemned to spend their days in perpetual darkness, by endeavouring to alleviate the wretchedness of their condition, if we cannot entirely remove the cause of it, as Christ did!
2. Let us learn to be thankful also for the gift of speech. It is that faculty of our natures which distinguishes us from other creatures; which raises men above brutes; and renders them like God: it affords us the means of doing much good: by it we may enlighten the ignorant mind, reprove and reclaim the wicked, direct the perplexed, soften the calamities of the distressed, inculcate upon men the important principles of piety and morality, and lead them in the way to present and eternal happiness. Such are the important benefits which we may confer upon mankind by the
right use of speech. How painful is it to reflect that what might be rendered of so much good, is often perverted to purposes of quite an opposite nature! “The tongue,” James tells us, “is a fire; a world of iniquity: it setteth on fire the course of nature; and is set on fire of hell.” Such is the tongue, when employed to convey falshood instead of truth; to blaspheme God rather than to bless him; to curse ourselves, or our brethren, instead of praying for them. Rather than my tongue shall be applied to such purposes, will the Christian say, let it cleaye to the roof of my mouth: let my lips be closed in perpetual silence: let me be dumb as this dæmoniac, and may God never open my mouth! While my tongue can move, I will employ it to praise the author of my being, and to thank him for his various benefits: I will employ it to impart knowledge to my brethren; to pray for their welfare; even for the welfare of those who wish evil to me, and are ready to do it.
3. From the example of Christ, we may learn how we ought to behave towards those who are ignorant, and destitute of proper instructors: he beheld them with compassion; he undertook to instruct them himself, and he directed his disciples to pray, that God would send forth other labourers to this great work.---Let us endeavour to imitate his conduct: there is much ignorance and wickedness still among mankind: even in a Christian country, men are still destitute of just notions of religion; their minds are depraved, and their morals corrupt: but let us not look down upon them with contempt, much less with abhorrence. They are the objects of compassion rather than of indignation. Unhappy, deluded men, who have fallen into this dreadful condition, through their own folly, or the neg. ligence of those whose duty it was to instruct them! Let us pray that God would raise up fit instruments for enlightening and reforming mankind: let each of us do what he can to forward this important work, with his own hands: for all men are capable of being made wiser and better. Here is a large field, which will furnish work enough for every one.
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