Page images

one victim, one blood, procured the remission, is of all others the most likely to put respect of all thy offences; the Prince of the kings on the ordinance of God. Who of all those, of the earth, who has broken asunder the who are born of a woman, stood least in need bands of thy yoke, and asserted thee into the of the influence and assistance of sacred ediglorious liberty of the sons of God;" and fices and seasons ? He whose conversation the great, the unerring Teacher sent from was continually in heaven, whose “ meat and God, who spake as never man spake, whose drink it was to do the will of his heavenly lessons make men wise unto salvation. Father," who never lost sight, for a moment,

As the Sovereign and Lord of Nature we of the great end of his mission. And who have seen him exercising dominion over the was so regular in his attendance on the expowers of the worlds visible and invisible, ercises of religious worship; who was so putting Satan to flight by a word, receiving exact in the observance of every institution the homage and ministrations of angels. As that was stamped with marks of divine auan Iligh Priest, “after the order of Melchi- thority ? zedec," we shall in the progress of this his- The sabbath is an ordinance of mercy, detory behold him offering himself

, once for all, signed by Him who " preserveth man and “ a sacrifice of a sweet smelling sayour unto beast,” to be an interruption of painful toil, God.” We are this evening to sit at his feet, a restorer of exhausted nature, à season of and to listen to him in his humbler and more repose; but in perfect consistency with this, familiar character of the meek, patient, and it is a season of mental exertion of benecondescending instructer of the weak, the ficence; of devout contemplation, of virtuous, ignorant, and the prejudiced. And, O may social intercourse. But the observance of the the gracious words which proceed from his sabbath had, when our Saviour came into the mouth not only excite our wonder, but pene- world, degenerated into a narrow and grotrate and melt our hearts, kindle our repent- velling superstition, which separated from it ings together, and put all that remains of every idea of mercy and good-will to men, our existence under the dominion of love. and the spirit was sunk in the letter. It

His first labours of affection were bestow- therefore became this great Teacher, to ed upon his kindred and acquaintance, they restore the institution to its primitive design were consecrated to the improvement of the and use, and to guard mankind equally against companions and friends of early life. He the extremes of superstition, on the one hand, had hitherto taught them by example, he and of profanity on the other: and this he now teaches them out of the written word. does with a wisdom, a delicacy, and a dignity Had he been covetous of fame or of honour, peculiar to himself. Who can think slightly he would surely have chosen another theatre of what he treated with respect? Who dares on which to display his superior powers, for to violate what he observed as “ the holy of he well knew that no prophet is accepted in the Lord and honourable ?" And who again his own country. He well knew that emi- can think he is doing honour to God by exnent excellency excites envy, that envy pro- pressing indifference, unkindness, and want duces malignity, and that malice prompts of sympathy to men? He who attended the to evil speaking. But regard to his own synagogue, who read and expounded the interest and ease is lost in compassion to Scriptures on the sabbath; on the sabbath others, and the love of reputation with men also restored the withered hand, defended reverently bends to zeal for the glory of God. his disciples from the charge of profanation, Every cireumstance of the scene before us is displayed the character of the sovereign interesting and instructive.

Lord of the sabbath, as preferring mercy to We have in the preceding Lecture ad- sacrifice, and as having instituted “the sabverted to those of place, it was “in Galilee bath for man, and not man for the sabbath." at Nazareth where He had been brought Observe farther, the evangelist takes care up," and " in the synagogue.” Attend now to inform us that Christ's attendance on the to the season, it was on the sabbath-day. As services of the synagogue and the sabbath to the pure all places, so all times are pure, was not merely accidental or occasiona), but yet to man, weak and imperfect as he is, dis- habitual and stated: as his custom was. tinction of both time and place is important What we do according to no fixed rule, we and necessary. Show me a man who is do feebly and confusedly. What we do selhabitually and uniformly that in the world, dom, we do with reluctance and dislike; and which decency obliges him to appear to be from dislike the natural transition is to total in the house of God, and I shall not presume omission. On the contrary, what is subjectto condemn him, though he frequent not the ed to rule is done accurately and efficiently; temple; although such an one is of all others what we do habitually, we do with ease and the least likely to desert it. Show me the delight; for custom, says the proverb, and man whose every day is a day of order, of with much truth, is a second nature. The piety, of mercy, and of good works, and such Saviour of the world, accordingly, vouchsafed an one shall, for me, spend the seventh day to become an example here also, as of every in what manner he will; though such an one thing else that is wise and good; He was a

[ocr errors]

pattern of regular, orderly conduct; from his this too, therefore, I consider the example of childhood, and upward. He was a silent in- Christ as intelligible, decided, and instrucstructer of the successive stages of rising tive. existence, in docility, in contentment, in sub- He “stood up to read." Happily for the mission, in regularity.

world, its information, and instruction in Let no one tell me that it is useless to ha- matters of everlasting moment were not esbituate children betimes to the forms of devo- trusted to the uncertainty, the changeable tion; to the observance of institutions whose ness, and the corruptibility of oral tradition. meaning and intention they do not fully com- He who bestowed on man the gift of speechi

, prehend: to restraints which to them appear for the mutual communication of thought, harsh and unreasonable. It is a great thing, gave likewise the pattern of permanent indeed it is every thing, to be under the go- speech, by means of writing; by which vernment of innocent or praiseworthy cus- thought is transmitted from region to region, toins : to be inured to the laws of order; to from generation to generation, unsophisticated, be prepared for thinking for themselves, and unimpaired. Hence the events which Moses for having their sentiments heard and attend-recorded, and which Isaiah predicted, the ed to, by learning to pay respect to the precepts of the Law and the promises of the understanding, to the opinions, and to the Gospel, descend from age to age in equal experience of others. Think with what holy purity, weight, and measure: and the son indignation, He, whose name we bear, would sees, reads, and apprehends the selfsame have listened to a proposal to violate his cus- truth which was the light and joy of his protom, and to make the hour of the devotions genitors. And what must it have been to of the synagogue, the hour of walking into hear the sublime and pathetic strains of Isa. the cornfields !

iah pronounced by the tongue of Him who The historian is here singularly minute, formed the ear for the perception of melodiand gives wonderful vivacity to his repre-ous sounds, the mouth to utter them, and the sentation, by going into a detail of particulars. heart to receive the impression of sacred and Among these, we must advert to his posture interesting truth! We may judge of it froin and attitude, when employed in reading to the mute attention with which he was heard, the people the word of God. He stood up for and from the wonder expressed, after he had to read. Nature seems to point this out as finished, “at the gracious words which proan attitude of reverence and respect. Since ceeded out of his mouth.” the days of Abraham, who stood up and bowed It would appear that it was not only whis himself before the people of the land wherein custom” to attend the synagogue, but to perhe dwelt, the wise, the benevolent, and the form the office of public reader to the assemicourteous have employed it as an expression bly. For the proper minister delivers to of regard to superior sanctity, power, majes. Him, as to the acknowledged conductor of ty, or multitude. Posture is, in itself, still this part of the service, that portion of the more indifferent than time or place; but no- Sacred Code which either order prescribed, thing is indifferent in the eyes of true wisdom, or which his selection called for, or to which by which the interests of either human vir- Providence specially directed ; and he retue or felicity can be affected. Truth is the ceived it from Him again to be deposited in same whether delivered in an erect or a re- its place. And whether indeed did Prosicumbent posture. But in matters of this dence, independent of human design or foresort, what says common practice? Will sight, by a special interposition unfold the my compliance conciliate affection, procure particular passage from ancient prophecy; attention, give force to what is said ?' Then or did his own choice select it as peculiarly I will cheerfully conform. Will my singu- applicable to the occasion? In either case, larity give offence, will it awaken prejudice, what portion of the Old Testament Scriptures will it injure the cause I mean to promote ? is more emphatically descriptive of his perThen I will not affect singularity; I will not son, character, and divine mission ? And be uncomplying nor unkind; and I will dis- what can be so worthy of our most deep and sent only where conscience is concerned, serious attention, whether we consider the and where compliance would be criminal. infinite and everlasting moment of the sub

How melancholy it is to reflect, on the ject, the interest which we have in it, or the talents which have been perverted, on the affecting correspondence of the event with time which has been wasted, but that is com- the prediction, of the prophet with his object. paratively nothing, on the angry spirits The prophecy holds up to view a person which have been excited, on the oceans of of the most distinguished eminence, cous blood which have been spilt

, in determin- crated in the most extraordinary manner, to ing whether standing, sitting, or kneeling; the execution of the most generous, mercial whether this or the other unessential circum- and benevolent purposes, and in language stance were most adapted to the nature of the most powerful and pathetic. It is the things, or most conformable to the will, or anointed of the Lord God, his Holy One, who conducive to the glory, of the Creator. In alone could without presumption undertake,


[ocr errors]

525 and triumphantly accomplish, the work of in heart, that they may find rest to their redemption, and could unfold that " great souls.” mystery of Godliness" which angels desire to “ He hath sent me to heal the broken-heartlook into: who was set apart from everlast- ed.” Gracious office! divine Physician! ing to this high destination, who was gra- Thou only art equal to the task. “The heart dually revealed, and in the fulness of time, knoweth its own bitterness;" the ill admits sent to be the salvation of God to all the ends of no cure; the officious consolation of the of the earth. Who was anointed, not as creature only irritates the wound ; time itself Aaron to the priesthood, and David to the brings no relief. But behold, here, not a sovereignty, by a material oil of exquisite temporary relief, but a lasting cure; not the odour and costly price, but by the effusion of transient spirit and calm of a stupifying the Spirit, the Spirit of power, of wisdom, of opiate, but the solid support of wholesome holiness, which rested upon him without food, and the refreshing balm of wholesome measure; and which was bestowed upon rest. An insnaring, persecuting world, him, for what purpose ? with Moses to hum- mourner in Zion, disturbs thy peace, and ble the pride, and crush the power of Egypt? breaks thy heart; but He hath said " be of or with Cyrus, “ to subdue nations, to loose good cheer, I have overcome the world.” the loins of kings, to open before him the In the world ye shall have tribulation, but two-leaved gates, to make the crooked places in me ye shall have peace.” In the bitterstraiglat, to break in pieces the gates of brass, ness of thy soul thou criest out, “O wretchand cut in sunder the bars of iron;" to exe-ed man that I am ! who shall deliver me from cute the righteous judgment of the Eternal the body of this death ?”—Trembling, sinkon rebellion, presumption, and disobedience; ing creature, speak peace to thy soul, “ reto condemn and to destroy? No, when this turn to thy rest,” “ there is no condemnation mighty One cometh, armed with power, to them that are in Christ Jesus; it is God anointed with the Spirit, it is to dispense that justifieth ; who is he that condemneth ?" grace, to diffuse happiness, to relieve the To preach deliverance to the captives. iniserable,

Bondage, slavery, captivity are happily "He hath anointed me to preach the gos- known to us only by the name, or in idea. pel to the poor." The poor are, with the We are more than Abraham's children; our great of the earth, the objects of neglect, father's contended for liberty, Heaven grantand contempt, and oppression. In the dic- ed it, and we enjoy it. But ah ! our country tionary of the world, rich means respectable, is but a speck on the globe; our population powerful, and important: and poverty is is but a handful of men. And alas, even in equivalent to wretchedness, meanness, despi- our own country there is captivity. How cability. But the dispensation of grace by many among us “ wax poor and fall into dethe gospel inverts this order; it affixes a dif- cay," and that not from profligacy and proferent, indeed an opposite meaning to words, digality alone? The creditor cometh, and it raises into consequence what was lightly there is nothing to give him. The loss of esteemed, and it burls pride down to the liberty is the consequence: the evil becomes ground It “puts down the mighty from worse and worse. He who entered within their seats, and exalteth them of low degree." the walls of a prison unfortunate only, conIs it poverty of condition? That is no bar tinues there under a total incapacity of against the admission of the consolations of shaking off calamity. What was at first the Christianity ; that is no disqualification for pressure of debt, imperceptibly changes into enjoying the rights of citizenship of the king- an intolerable load of vice, from which a dom of heaven;

that implies no exclusion from miracle of grace alone can deliver. How the glorious "privileges of the sons of God;" many thousands of our fellow-subjects are in that implies neither sin nor shame. Is it po- this unhappy, this almost hopeless condition ! verty of spirit? It is the creature's highest But liberty may exist even in a dungeon. If glory; it is the Redeemer's brightest and the prisoner carries with him into confinemost perfect image; it is the soul's prepara- ment the “spirit of adoption,” he is already tion for the kingdom of heaven. To the one delivered from bondage. No bolts, nor bars, and to the other is the anointed of the Lord nor fetters of iron can restrain the heavensent to preach the gospel ; to the poor in this born mind; he can look up and “ cry, Abba, world, that they may learn to be sobermind- Father!" "He that is called in the Lord, ed, patient, and content; not envying nor being a slave, is the Lord's freeman.” “If grieving at the good of others, but laying up the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free for themselves “ treasures in heaven;" look- indeed." Paul in bonds, a prisoner in the ing for “another country," for “a city which cause of Jesus Christ, possesses a nobly free hath foundations, whose builder and maker and independent spirit. Galled with many is God:"—to the poor in spirit, that they may stripes ;" “ thrust into the inner prison" at grow in grace,” that they may "contem- Philippi

, with Silas his companion in tribulaplate and follow their pattern more closely, tion, their feet made fast in the stocks,' learning of him daily to be “meek and lowly they enjoy liberty of access to the throne of


[ocr errors]

men had

[ocr errors]

Grace. “At midnight they prayed, and sang of vision after the organ is destroyed; but to praises unto God." Thus “ the Lord looseth be reduced to mourn with the poet in these the prisoners,” and thus the Anointed is affecting strains : “sent to preach,” and to give " deliverance to the captives.”

With the year

Seasons return; but not to me returns But what, in respect either of multitude or Day, or the sweet approach of ev'n or morn, of misery, are imprisoned debtors, or even

Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer's rose,

Or flocks or herds, or human face divine: felons lying under the rod of the law, com- But cloud instead, and ever during dark pared to the voluntarily enslaved ?

“ Who

Surrounds me! from the cheerful ways of men soever committeth sin is the slave of sin."

Cut off; and for the book of knowledge fair,

Presented with a universal blank And what blindness is like wilful blindness, Of nature's works, to me expungid and ras'd, and what servitude so hopeless, so inglorious

And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out!

PARADISE LOST, 11. 40, &c. as that into which a man degrades himself? It is some alleviation of the depression of a This is “darkness which may be felt." servile estate, that the master is honourable, In representing, accordingly, the deplorable and that the service required is neither state of the world under the image of blindhumiliating nor severe : but O how mortify- ness, a state of ignorance, guilt, and wretching the reflection of being in subjection to an edness; and in representing the corresponunfeeling monster, to a capricious tyrant, to dent office and work of the Redeemer, that a contemptible groundling! And such is blindness is not described as an original and every slave to irregular appetite, whether it radical defect of sight, but as the casual de be “the lust of the flesh, or the lust of the privation of a blessing once in possess100 : eyes, or the pride of life." Such dream that and he is considered as sent, not to confer a they are following their own will, but in benefit unknown, unenjoyed before, but to truth they “ are led captive by Satan at his restore that which was lost, to relumine the will:” and “the wages of sin is death.” To extinguished orb. The truth deliver from this most inglorious, this fatal wilfully shut their eyes, because they could thraldom, then, is the object of Christ's mis- not bear the light. This was the condension. What, Britons, glory, and well you nation of the unbelieving Jews, with all their may, in your civil liberties! and willingly superior advantages: “Jesus said, For judgassume the yoke of a paltry interest, of a ment I am come into this world ; that they grovelling propensity which you are ashamed who see not might see, and that they which to avow! What, make it your boast that the see might be made blind. And some of the moment the ill-fated African breathes British Pharisees which were with him heard these air he becomes free; and continue deliberate-words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? ly to “ fulfil the desires of the flesh and of Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye the mind,” which “ war against the soul!" should have no sin : but now ye say, We see; Great Deliverer, exert thy power, display therefore your sin remaineth." And this thy grace; “ open their eyes, turn them from was the condemnation of the self-conceited darkness to light, and from the power of Gentiles, with all their affectation of wisdom: Satan unto God, that they may receive for- “ professing themselves to be wise, theç begiveness of sins, and inheritance among them came fools :" " they became vain in their which are sanctified."

imaginations, and their foolish heart was “ He hath sent me—for the recovering of darkened." They are in another place thus sight to the blind.” On what numberless, described, and under the same image ; " The and what delicate hinges does human com- Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind

, fort turn! Who can describe “the thousand having the understanding darkened

, being natural shocks that flesh is heir to?" Were alienated from the life of God through the the kindness of Nature or the care of Provi- ignorance that is in them, because of the dence to be suspended but for a day, into blindness of their heart." And this mental what a lazar-house would the world be in- darkness is represented as necessarily blend. stantly transformed! The defect of a nailed with moral corruption of the gasest of a little finger is a blemish in organization, kind. Thus are both Jews and Gentiles ivbut a blemish which nature seldom permits; volved in thick darkness, and both under the how much less a deficiency of one of the dominion of sin ; “God hath concluded thein nobler parts, or a disarrangement of the whole all in unbelief, that he might have merer system! “But that the works of God should upon all.” The promises of Messiah are be made manifest,” a “ man is blind from his equal extent; as a salvation prepared bebirth;" and another loses the precious trea-fore

the face of all people

, a light to lighton sure of his eyesight.” Of the two, the latter the Gentiles, and the glory of his people surely is the greater evil. We cannot re- Israel." gret what we have hardly an idea of, what He is sent, to set at liberty them that tre we never possessed, and to which we become bruised.” We have here a representation perfectly reconciled before we are conscious of human misery in every circumstance

of of existence. But to recollect the pleasures / aggravation; poverty, mental depression, capa


[ocr errors]






tivity, blindness, fetters of iron. There is in , servant to a Hebrew, “ he and his children this gradation, perhaps, an allusion to the hor- with him” were to be set free, and restored rid treatment of unhappy prisoners on falling to their rank in Israel; the poor Hebrew, into the hands of their enemies. They were who had been reduced to the sad necessity shut up in prison, their eyes were thrust out, of selling himself as a slave to a stranger, they were loaded with chains. Thus was was to be redeemed by his next of kin. İna Samson treated, the moment his strength word, at the expiration of every seven times failed, and his cruel adversaries had obtained seven years, all the disorders which had power over him: “The Philistines took himn, crept into the commonwealth, from the peand put out his eyes, and brought him down riod of the preceding jubilee, were to be recto Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; tified, and all reinstated on the original basis. and he did grind in the prisonhouse." And It is easy to conceive how such an era would the sight of his wretchedness they called be looked unto and longed for, what a happy sport. In this manner could one king act tendency it had to ameliorate the condition by another. “ So they took the king, and of myriads, and to check the progress of opbrought him up to the king of Babylon to pression. In contemplating it, the Psalmist Riblah; and they gave judgment upon him. exclaims: “Blessed is the people that know And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before the joyful sound!" It was a figure of that his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, "acceptable year of the Lord” which it was and bound him with fetters of brass, and car- predicted the Messiah should be sent to proried him to Babylon.” Such are the dread- claim, the perpetual jubilee of the Gospel, ful abuses which a man commits against for the remission of sins; for the restoration his brother! such is the dreadful malignity of the forfeited inheritance of the saints; for of the human heart; such the detestable the manumission of the slave; for the redempworking of “the carnal mind,” which is tion of the captive; for releasing and bringenmity against God,” and an unrelenting foe ing back the exile: in a word, " to destroy to man!

the works of the devil,” to repair the ravages This enumeration of human woes, is equi- of sin and death, to introduce universal and valent to a declaration, that whatever may be everlasting liberty, and peace, and joy. the nature, and whatever the extent of the The sequel of this service of the synamalady, the promised deliverer should come gogue, and the effect which it produced, will provided with a suitable remedy. And when be the subject of the next Lecture. he did come, he not only exercised this gra- Learn, Christian, to compare Scripture cious power himself; for “they brought unto with Scripture, and predictions with their corhim all sick people that were taken with di- responding events. Search diligently for him vers diseases and torments, and those which to whom all the prophets give witness, and in were possessed with devils, and those which whom “all the promises of God are yea, and were lunatic, and those that had the palsy ; in Him amen, unto the glory of God.” Much and he healed them;" but he communicated is clearly manifested, and pointedly applied; the same salutary virtue to his disciples also; but much still remains to be brought to light. “ He gave them power against unclean spi-Truth will not obtrude itself on the careless, rits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner superficial reader or observer, but discloses of sickness, and all manner of disease." And its hidden charms to the diligent, the devout, thus was the scripture fulfilled. The pro- and the inquisitive. It is the injunction of phecy contains one important article more: Christ himself: “Search the Scriptures; for

The Anointed is sent to preach the accept- in them ye think ye have eternal life: and able year of the Lord. " The law had a they are they which testify of me.” Search shadow of good things to come.”. With its then in this particular view, and you will severity was blended a powerful infusion of have to tell to others what Philip said to Namercy and mildness, the particulars of which thaniel ; “ We have found him of whom Mohad a direct reference to the times and the ses in the law, and the prophets, did write, spirit of the Gospel. Of these, the year of Jesus of Nazareth.” “With joy shall ye jubilee was one of the most distinguished. draw water out of these wells of salvation :" It was ushered in with the sound of the trum- and having tasted how sweet and refreshing pet, “ proclaiming liberty throughout all the it is, you will be disposed to impart it to land, unto all the inhabitants thereof." On others, for in this, if in any case, the saying the return of this hallowed fiftieth year, debts of the wise man is verified: “There is that were remitted ; alienated lands reverted to scattereth and yet increaseth :” and “it is the original proprietor; the Hebrew bond- more blessed to give than to receive."

« PreviousContinue »