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LUKE Vii. 1-3.
Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum. And a certain centurion's servant, who was highly valued by him, was sick and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the fews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his ser vant.
Ir is a character of great virtue and goodness that is exhibited to us in this centurion, to which we find some of the principal Jews bear pleasing testimony; and which also merited the highest commendations from our Lord himself.
It cannot, therefore, but be a suitable and useful employ for us at present to take a view of it; and where it may be needed, thereby to reform and correct our own conduct; that we also may be such as Christ our Master shall approve.
But there are two points which it will be of use previously to settle.
1st. To reconcile the seemingly contrary accounts in one respect, which the two evangelists who mention this transaction give of it.
For Matthew says; (viii. 5.) that the centurion himself came to Jesus. Whereas our evangelist Luke relates here; that he sent some of the elders of the Jews, and afterwards certain of his friends, to beseech Jesus, in his name, to heal his servant: but that he did not come himself.
It would not at all impeach the credibility of the history, if the two historians really differed in such an unimportant circumstance relating to it.
But, as hath been often observed, the matter may be easily adjusted, without admitting any such difference.
For Luke appears to have given a larger and more circumstantial narrative; viz. that the centurion employed other persons to wait upon Jesus, and intercede in his behalf; whilst Matthew, who enters not into such particulars, might ascribe the whole to the centurion in his own person, what he directed others
others to do in his name: a very common mode of speaking and style, both in sacred and profane writers.
So in Matthew, (xx. 20.) we read, that the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus to ask the first honours in his kingdom for them. But in Mark, (x. 35.) that they came themselves and asked him: because their mother having done it at their desire, was the same as if they had requested it themselves.
These little variations in the evangelists we often have occasion to observe, are so far from being blemishes, or marks of uncertainty in their histories, that they rather are very agreeable and satisfactory proofs that they did not copy after one another, but are so many independent witnesses of the facts they relate.
2d. The other point is; Who this centurion
It was so ordered, by that divine Providence that appointeth and directeth all things, that the country of the Jews, in our Saviour's time, was subject to the Romans; and it was customary with that warlike people to station
officers and soldiers over all the conquered provinces, to keep them in obedience. One of these was this person, a Roman military officer stationed at Capernaum, and captain over a hundred men, as his name bespeaks.
As to his religion, he was a heathen.
For although some have supposed that the Jews had two sorts of proselytes or converts to their religion; one, proselytes of righteousness, as they are distinguished, who were circumcised, and bound to observe the whole law of Moses; the other, proselytes of the gate, as they are called, who were neither circumcised nor tied to the observance of the Mosaic law, except the moral parts of it, in renouncing idolatry, and in professing the belief and worship of Jehovah, the one true God; and it has been supposed that this centurion was one of this latter sort of proselytes to the Jews' religion;
The scriptures, however, take no notice of this second sort of proselytes, or half-converts; nor are there any good grounds of authority elsewhere to prove that there ever were any proselytes among the Jews but such as were circumcised, and conformed to the whole law of
of Moses, who are called strangers, strangers in their gates, sojourners, worshipers, such as feared God:
As to persons not circumcised, they were not permitted to live in Judea; being allowed a passage through it by way of traffic, but no more; for their land was holy, and not to be polluted by heathens. Under the Romans, indeed, they were constrained to admit foreigners to have their abode in it; but they had little or no communication with them, as ap pears from the history before us, and from many other passages in the New Testament.
But, although a heathen and uncircumcised, this Roman officer had a mind open to receive the truth; and, from what is said of him, and our Lord's behaviour towards him, appears to have attained to the knowledge of the one true God by living among the Jews, as did others of the Roman soldiers stationed among them, of whom mention is made in the gospel history; and many more, we may presume, unknown, who are not named.
I conceive it will be of use to go over the history, making a few remarks as we pass along; and then to offer you one or two more general