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multitude which followed him because of the loares and fishes, and would have made him king, he exhorted to labor for the meat which endureth to eternal life, and withdrew himself from them; as we should cautiously do whenever we fall into seditious and atheistical company.
Also, when he saw the worshippers very thirsty in the temple, he invited them to come unto him, and drink of the waters which flowed from the spiritual rock. His admonitions and criticisms were always strikingly just, and his public disputations so conclusive, as to cover his opponents with confusion, and create veneration for his character.
VI. The divinity of our Saviour's works corresponded with the sublimity of his words, and with all those exalted ideas we entertain of the divine munificence. The holy prophets when communicating their revelations, were jealous to give all the glory to the Lord. In the Pentateuch, we read, that “the Lord spake to Moses ;” and the prophets introduced their revelations with, “ thus saith the Lord.” Our divine Master spake not as a servant, but as a Son. He .came from the bosom of the Father, and acted with supreme authority. Correcting the false interpretation of the law, by the Rabbins, he expresses himself as the sovereign lawgiver. “It has been said by them of old time, thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy; but I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.” If objected, that Elijah raised up the dead, he rectifies the error by intimating that the Lord wrought the work in answer to Elijah's. prayer.
“ As the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given the Son to have life in himself," John v. 21. This was making the proper distinction between the servants and the Son.
VII. A man publishing the laws of heaven in majestic language, and deciding on questions but imperfectly known to the prophets, certainly ought to substantiate his mission by divine works. Besides, those who were open to conviction, and ready to embrace the truth, had not sufficient time to try the effects of the gospel on society. On these accounts it was really requisite that miracles should, for a while, accompany the Christian ministry. Accordingly, when modest or urgent occasions offered, and when the distressed solicited relief by faith, the blind saw-the deaf heard
--the lame walked--the sick were cured--the lepers were cleansed-demoniacs delivered-and the dead were raised up.
In the creation, “God spake and it was done ; he eommanded and it stood fast. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and the hosts of them by the breath of his mouth,” Psalm xxxiii. 6. Just So, when the same word was made flesh, he spake, and the stormy winds and seas were calmed at his rebuke the fishes of the deep assembled at his secret call the hungry multitudes were fed with a trivial quantity of bread-yea,
“ The modest water, aw'd by pow'r divine,
Confess'd its God, and blushing, turn'd to wine," Thus every creature, whether animate or inanimate, did him homage as the God of nature, and obeyed him as the ruler of the universe.
The number, variety, and magnitude of our Lord's miracles were too great to admit of mistake, and too openly performed to be capable of deception. They are attested by enemies as well as by friends. Among the Jews, Josephus and the Talmud, and among the heathen, Celsus and Julian, however incautiously, bear their testimony to the miraculous powers of Christ.
Some of these miracles, it is granted, he wrought by the ministry of holy angels, and some by the ministry of demons, as when he destroyed the swine of the Gadarenes. Satan solicited power to do this evil that he might prejudice the people against the gospel, and our Lord permitted it, as he permits other evils, that they might be either hardened er humbled under the mighty hand of God.
After all these miracles, the perverse rulers of Israel still demanded of the Saviour, some further sign of his mission, or proof that God had sent him: probably, some such visible appearance of the divine glory as they had been accustomed to while the tabernacle and first temple stood. The Lord rebuking their incredulity, declared, that he would give them a sign; but it should be the sign of his resurrection to their ut ter confusion; that as Jonah was raised up from the deep, so should the Son of man be raised up the third day from the dead.
On the subject of miracles, the enemies of Christianity have no alternative, but either to acknowledge them to be wrought by the Holy Spirit, or by the power of demons; for they have already acknowledged their existence. To human power they cannot be ascribed; and, “if Satan cast out Satan, how shall his kingdom stand ?” Our Lord knowing that the Pharisees ascribed them to Beelzebuh, the prince of devils, and foreseeing that the heathen would ascribe them to magic, took occasion to denounce the most dreadful punishment against so presumptive a crime. “ All sins," said he, “shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme; but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation; because they said, he hath an unclean spirit,” Mark iii. 22-30.
VIII. The personal virtues of our blessed Lord conferred the highest honor on human nature, and on his ministerial character. In the commencement of his discourse on the mount, he discovered his compassion by promising the kingdom of heaven to the poor in spirit, and comfort to the mourners. He had compassion on the desolate widow of Nain, and raised her only son from the dead. In order that the Jews might believe, he wept with the sisters of Lazarus, and restored their brother to life, though he had been dead four days. He was a physician to the sick, and
friend of penitent publicans and sinners. The
disciples, who wept when he told of his departure, he comforted with a series of promises concerning his peace and presence, which he would ever afford them; and concerning the comforter, and his own assured return to receive them to glory. The reviving tidings of his resurrection he sent to backslidden Peter by name; and when giving a ministerial charge to that apostle, after his restoration, the lambs of the flock were first recommended to his pastoral care. word, his meekness and humility, his piety and diligence, his patience and resignation, discovered a glory altogether worthy of our incarnate God.
When undeceiving the multitudes with regard to their hopes of his becoming a temporal prince, he discovered the utmost frankness and undisguised sincerity. He could not, for a moment, suffer them to remain under the fond but fatal delusion. “If any man,” said he, “will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his crogs daily, and follow me. Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.” May we all learn of this divine Saviour to lay the axe in like manner to the root of every vice.
In Jerusalem, and some other cities, in which his ministry and miracles too were wholly rejected, he ased the utmost endeavors to remove their prejudice, and conciliate their affections. Against his miracles, the priests and rulers could bring no objection; but they objected to him as a wicked man, because he wrought some of them on the Sabbath day. To remove this prejudice, our Lord compared their public conduct with his own: when he healed the man with a withered hand, he observed, that it was as lawful for him to loose that man, as for them to loose a beast, and lead him to water. Likewise, when he healed the man at the pool, who had been lame for eight and thirty years, he observed, that they performed the operation of circumcision on the Sabbath; consequently, that it was as lawful for him to heal, as for them to wound on that day. But all these arguments made but a momentary impression on their ancient prejudices in favour of a regal Messiah; they would neither receive him as a good man nor a prophet; and when he asserted his existence previous to Abraham, they took up stones to cast at him.
It was wholly with a view to remove prejudice, prevent civil commotion, and promote usefulness, that he concealed his divine character from the world. When entering on his ministry, he told no one who he was, but rather let his words and works gradually disclose his mission and character. His disciples, indeed, believed on him, as the promised Messiah, from the beginning; but the consideration of his humble condition allayed their joys, and deferred their hopes of a temporal kingdom. It was not till the second year of his ministry, while going to Cesarea, that he confirmed their faith in him as the Son of God, or the Messiah; but at the same time he charged them to tell no man.
Also, in a village of Samaria, in which there was no danger of exciting the jealousy of the Jewish rulers, he frankly avowed his character, and confirmed it by divine evidences. This admirable prudence of Jesus, in appearing as an extraordinary prophet only, secured the protection of his disciples, and removed every obstruction to the conversion of those factions which composed the Jewish church and polity.
IX. After the imprisonment and martyrdom of John, the eyes of the pious Jews were turned to Jesus. Knowing the seventy weeks of Daniel to be accomplished, it was their general expectation, that the Messiah would now appear;* hence considerable numbers of the people, and some of the chief rulers, bęlieved on him. But the nation at large was otherwise disposed. Accustomed to hear the Rabbins apply
* Percrebuerat oriente toto vetus et constans opinio, esse in futus Judæâ profecti rerum potirentur.
Suet. Pluribus persuasio inerat, antiquis sacerdotum libris contineri eo ipso tempore fore, ut valesceret oriens profectique Judæâ rerum potirentur.