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awaken those who are now ignorant of the value and importance of the blessings of the gospel; and excite those holy desires after them, which may prevent that impatience and envy, that rage and despair, with which they must otherwise view them at an unapproachable distance ; yea, view them possessed by multitudes, whom they are now inost ready to despise !
Jesus goes the next day to Naim, and raises the son of a poor widow from
the dead. Mark iii. 19-21. LÚKE vii. 11-17.. A
ND before Jesus left Capernaum with his afostles, they went in
to an house in that city. And the multitude assemble again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And, when his friends had heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him ; for they said, He is transported too far,
And it came to pass on the next day, that he went to a city called Naim ; and many of his disciples went with him, and a great multitude. And when he approached the gate of the city, behold, a dead person was carried out* in funeral procession, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow ; and there was a great multitude of the city with her. And the Lord seeing her, was moved with compassion for her ; and said unto her, Weep not. And approaching he touched the bier, and the bearers stood still ; and he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise! And he who had been dead, sat upt, and began to speak; and he delivered him to his mother. And a dread fell upon all; and they glorified God ; saying, Truly a great prophet is risen up among us; and God has regarded his people. And this report of him, went forth through all Judea, and the whole region that was round about.
REFLECTIONS. It surely becomes us likewise to glorify God on account of this great Prophet, whom he has raised up, not only to his ancient people Israel, but to be for salvation to the ends of the earth. Welcome, thou Messenger of the Father's love ! How illustrious thy miracles ! how important thy doctrine ! how beneficent and amiable the whole of thy behaviour! He went from Capernaum to Maim, still on the same blessed errand, to do good to the bodies and the souls of men. Oh that our lives, in their humbler sphere, might be such a circle of virtues and graces ! that we might thus go about doing good ; and might learn, by the happiest of all arts, to make the close of one useful and pious action the beginning of another !
Of him may we learn the most engaging manner of conferring benefits; that lovely mixture of freedom and tenderness, which heightens the sweetness, and doubles the value, of every favour ! May our hearts imbibe the same temper, and it will diffuse on our actions some proportionable gracefulness ! May our bowels, like his, yearn over the afflicted, and our hand be ever ready thus gently to wipe away their tears ! But, o gracious Redeemer, how impotent is our pity when compared with thine! with thine, which could call back lamented children from the grave, and turn the sorrows of a weeping parent into a torrent of joy! We are sometimes ready fondly to say, “Oh that thou hasdt been near when the darlings of our hearts were snatched away from us, and we left them in the dust!” But thou indeed wast near ; for thou hast the keys of death and the unsern world! And this we know, that, if our beloved children are sleeping in thee, thy voice shall at length awaken them; and thou wilt deliver them to us, to die no more ; and wilt thyself graciously take part in that mutual and lasting joy which thou shalt give to us and to them.
* They buried without the walls of their cities. + They used no coffins, the corpse the bier was covered only with a kind of mantic.
John the Baptist sends two of his disciples to Jesus, to inquire whether
he was the Messiah. LUKE vii. 18—23. Matt. xi. 2-6.
OW the disciples of John informed him of all these things.
And when John had heard in prison the works of Christ (for their satisfaction rather than his own) he called two of his disciples to him, and sent them to Jesus, saying unto him, Art thou He that cometh, or are we to expect another ? And when the men were come to him, they said, John the Baptist has sent us to thee, saying, Art thou he that cometh, or are we to expect another ?-Now in that very hour he cured many of their diseases and plagues, and of evil spirits, and bestowed sight on many that were blind. And Jesus answering, said unto them, Go and relate to John the things which you have seen and heard ; that the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised : and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And, happy is he that is not scandalized at me.
REFLECTIONS. We have here in John the Baptist a very edifying instance of a most candid and pious temper. How solicitous was he to remove those scruples from the minds of his disciples which, perhaps, their excessive fondness for him might have occasioned ? He wisely sends them to converse with Jesus themselves : and surely they who most accurately inquire into the credentials he brings will be most effectually convinced and impressed by them. Let us, when tempted to doubt of the truth of Christianity, recollect the various and unanswerable proofs of it, which are summed up in these comprehensive words ; arising from the miracles and character of our Redeemer, and the prophetic testimony that was borne to him. Let us particularly rejoice that the poor have the gospel preached ; and that the blessings of it are offered to enrich the souls of those whose bodily necessities we often pity, without having it in our power to relieve thein.
And, since our Lord pronounces a blessing upon those that shall not be offended in him, let us consider what those things are, in the doctrine or circumstances of Christ, which have proved the most dangerous stumbling-blocks, and endeavour to fortify our souls against those temptations which may arise from them. So the trial of that faith which is a much more valuable treasure than gold which perishes though tried in the fire, may be found unto praise, and honour, and glory ; and we, on the whole, may be advanced in our way by incidents which at first threatened to turn us entirely out of it ; as the faith of these disciples of John, must surely be confirmed by those doubts which they had for a while entertained.
Jesus discourses with the multitude concerning John, and complains of
the perverseness of that generation. LUKE vii. 24–35. Matt. xi. 719.
COW when the messengers of John were gone away, Jesus be
gan to speak unto the multitude concerning John, and to inquire why they had formerly flocked after him, saying, What went you out into the wilderness to behold ? a reed shaken with the wind ? But what went you out to see ? a man dressed in soft garments ? Behold, they that wear a splendid dress, and live luxuriously, are in royal palaces. But, What did you go out to see? a prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. For this is the person of whom it is written (Mal. iii. 1.) “Behold I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee." I assuredly say unto you, among those that have been born of women, there hath not arisen a prophet greater than John the Baptist : nevertheless, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
And all the people hearing him, and even the publicans, justified God, and testified their approbation, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees, and doctors of the law, rejected the counsel of God to them, not being baptized by him. And from the days of John the Baptist, even to the present time, the kingdom of heaven is attacked with violence, and the violent seize it. For till the time of John, all the prophets prophesied, and the law of Moses was the only revelation of God's will ; but John opened a more perfect dispensation. And if you will receive it from me, this is Elijah who was to come. (Mal. iv. 5, 6.) He that hath ears to hear, let him hearit. And the Lord further said, To what then shall I compare
the men of this generation ? and to what are they like? They are like little children, sitting in the market-place, and calling out to their companions, and saying, we have piped to you, and you have not danced ; we have mourned to you, and you have not lamented, for John the Baptist came, neither eating bread, nor drinking wine ; and you say, He has a devil: On the other hand, the Son of man is come, eating and
drinking; and you say, Behold, a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom has been justified by all her children.
REFLECTIONS. How happy would it be, if we could learn to correct the natural inconsistencies of our temper and conduct by wise reflections and considerations ! How much more improving would our attendance on the ministrations of God's servants be, were we seriously to ask ourselves to what purpose we attended. It ought surely to be followed with such considerations, since it is intended to lead us to the kingdom of heaven : a glorious prize ! too glorious to be obtained by faint wishes and inactive desires. There is a sense in which it still suffers violence : and how sad is the degeneracy of our natures, that we should exert so little warmth in such a pursuit, and so much for every trifle ! Instead of that holy ardour with which men should press into it, they fold their hands in their bosoms, and lose themselves in soft luxurious dreams, till the precious opportunity is for ever gone. May divine grace disa play the crowns and palms of victory before our eyes, in so awakening a manner, that we may joyfully seize them, whatever obstacles may lie in our way, whatever must be done, or whatever must be borne to secure them !
Let us not, as we love our own souls, through a proud self-sufficiency reject the gracious counsels of God which are addressed to us, lest we should be another day condemned by publicans and sinners. Divine providence and grace are using a variety of methods with us : let not our perverseness and folly, like that of the Jews, frustrate them all ; but rather let us shew ourselves the children of wisdom, by falling in with its measures and improving as well as applauding them.
Our Lord laments over the impenitent cities of Galilee, acknowledges
the divine sovereignty, and invites sinners to come to him. Matt. xi. 20, &c.
miracles had been wrought, because they did not repent. 21 Wo unto thee, O Chorazin! wo unto thee, O Bethsaida! for if
the miracles which have been wrought in you, had been done in
Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth, 22 and ashes. Wherefore I say unto you, the condition of Tyre and
Sidon, in the day of judgment, shall be more tolerable than yours. 23 And thou, O Capernaum, who hast been exalted even to heaven
shalt be brought down to hell : for if the miracles which have been
wrought in thee, had been performed in Sodom, it would have 24 continued even to this day. Wherefore I say unto you, That the
condition of the land of Sodom, in the day of judgment, shall be more tolerable than yours.
25 At that time Jesus took occasion to say, I ascribe glory to thee,
O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these
things from wise and understanding persons, and hast revealed 26 them to infants. Be it so, O Father, since such is thy pleasure. 27 All things are delivered unto me by my Father ; and no one fully
knows the Son, but the Father ; neither does any truly know the
Father, but the Son, and he to whom the Son is pleased to reveal 28 him. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy burdened, 29 and I will ease you. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me,
for I am meek and lowly in heart; and you shall find refreshment 30 to your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
REFLECTIONS. What can we imagine more dreadful than the guilt and condemnation of those who hear the gospel only to despise it ! How can we read the doom of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, without trembling for ourselves, lest we should incur the like sentence ! Such have been our religious advantages, and opportunities, that, like them, we have indeed been lifted up to heaven : The Lord grant that we may not, by our misimprovement and disobedience, be cast down to the lowest hell! That Tyre and Sidon, and even Sodom and Gomorrah, may not at last rise up in judgment against us, and call down on our heads a punishment more intolerable than that which lias fallen upon them, or which they must even then feel !
Our vain curiosity may perhaps be ready to ask, Why were these advantages given to them that abused them, rather than to those who would have improved them better? But let us impose upon our minds a reverential silence ; since the great Lord of heaven and earth giveth not an account of any of his matters. It is 80, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight! Still we see the gospel hid from many who are esteemed the wisest and most prudent of mankind; and, blessed be God, we still see it revealed to some, who, in comparison of them, are but babes. Let not this offend us ; but rather taking our notions from the word of God, let us learn to honour these babes as possessed of the truest wisdom, and adore the riches of divine grace, if we are in their number, while many of superior capacities are left to stumble at this stone till they fall into final ruin. Whatever objections are brought against Christ and his ways, may we ever adhere to them, since all things are delivered to him by the Father ! From him therefore may we seek the true knowledge of God, as ever we desire everlasting life! We have all our burdens of sin and of sorrow! While we labour under them, let us with pleasure hear the gentle and melodious voice of a Redeemer, thus kindly inviting us to come unto him, that we may find rest to our souls. Let us with pleasure subject ourselves to him, and go on in our holy course with that improvement and cheerfulness which become those who learn by their own daily experience that his commandments are not grievous, and feel that his yoke is easy, and his burden light.