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Christ vindicates his disciples against the Pharisees, in gathering corn
on the sabbath. LUKE vi. 1-5. Matt. xii. 1-8. Mark ii. 23, &c.
ND it came to pass, that about this time, on the first sabbath after
the second [day of unleavened bread*] Jesus went through the corn-fields; and his disciples were hungry, and began, as they went, to pull off the ears of corn, and rubbing them in their hands, did eat the grain. And some of the Pharisees, when they saw it, said to them, Why do ye
that which it is not lawful to do on the sabbath days ? And, that they might involve their Master also in the same charge they said to him, Behold, thy disciples do that which it is not lawful to do on the sabbath. And Jesus said, in answer to them, Have ye never read that which David did in his necessity, when he and they that were with him were hungry? How he went into the house of God, in the days of Abiathar, who was afterwards the high priest, and took and eat the shew-bread, and gave it also to those that attended him which it was neither lawful for him nor them to eat, but for the priests alone ?
Or have ye not read in the law, that the priests in the temple, perform servile works on the sabbath-days, by which others would be reckoned to profane the sabbath, and are blameless ? Now I say unto you, That there is something] greater than the temple here. And he said unto them further, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath. But if ye had known what this scripture meaneth (Hos. vi. 6.) “ I require mercy and not sacrifice ;" you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath itselft.
REFLECTIONS. With pleasure we observe the zeal which these attendants of Christ express, who chose on a sacred festival to expose themselves to hunger as well as toil, rather than they would lose the benefit of his instructions, which, like the heavenly manna on the day preceding the sabbath, were then poured out in a double plenty. But what numerous auditory is 'so candid as to contain none who come, like these Pharisees, with a desire to cavil rather than to learn! The malignity of their temper sufficiently appeared in taking exception at so small a circumstance : hypocrites that could thus strain at a gnat, and yet swallow a camel, scrupling to rub out a few grains of corn, while they sought to devour widows houses, and were, under this grave mask of the strictest piety, inwardly full of rapine and all wickedness!
* So I venture to render this singular word devlepązapalov, yet not without much hesitation.
This certainly implies, that the sabbath was an institution of distinguished importance; and may perhaps also refer to that signal authority by which it was changed from the seventh to the first day of the week,
Let us attend to the apology Christ makes for his disciples. It speaks his own authority, as greater than the temple, and Lord of the sabbath : and well might he, in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, without the least presumption, use such language as this. It likewise declares much of the genius of his religion, which deals not in forms and ceremonies, and dispenses even with rituals of a divine appointment, when humanity and benevolence interfere with the observance of them. Since God will have mercy rather than sacrifice, let us abhor the perverseness and wickedness of those who sacrifice mercy itself, not merely to ceremonies of a divine original, but 10 their own arbitrary inventions, superstitious dreams, and precarious though confident determinations. Let us practise habitual caution and candour, lest, before we are aware, we condemn the innocent and the pious, and become guilty of what is much more displeasing in the sight of God than the faults which a peevish and censorious temper may fancy it discovers in our brethren.
Christ on a following sabbath, cures a man whose hand was withered,
and vindicates that action. LUKE vi. 6-ll. Matt. xii. 9-15. Mark iii. 1-7.
OW it came to pass also, when he was departed from thence,
that on another sabbath, he entered again into the synagogue, and taught. And behold there was a man present whose right hand was withered. And the Scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath-day; that they might find an accusation against him. But knowing their thoughts, he said to the man who had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand in the midst ; and he arose, and stood. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to cure on sabbath-days ? that they might accuse him. And he said to them, What man is there of you, who, if he have but one sheep that on the sabbath-day should fall into a pit, would not lay hold of it and raise it up ? Now how much is a man better than a sheep? So that it is lawful to do well on sabbath-days.
Then Jesus said further to them, I will ask you one thing more ; Is it lawful to do good on sabbath-days, or to do evil ? to save life or to destroy and kill the innocent ? But they were silent. And when he had looked round upon them all with indignation, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he says to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored, well as the other. And the Pharisees were so incensed that they went out, and immediately took counsel with the Herodians* against him, how they might destroy him. And they were filled with madness, and discoursed with each other, what they might do to Jesus. But Jesus knowing it withdrew himself from thence, with his disciples, to the sea of Galilee.
* A sect of men who seem to have distinguished themselves by their zeal for the family of Herod ; and consequently for the authority of the Romans. VOL. I.
REFLECTIONS. What actions are so fair and lovely, that malice cannot turn them into reproach! What characters are so unblemislied, what so exemplary, that uncharitableness cannot revile and condemn them! Whiic the eyes of distressed multitudes were turned to Christ as their, only Physician and most valuable Friend, the eyes of the Pharisees are continually upon him for evil: and they behold his wondrous miracles, not for their own conviction, but that they may, if possible, turn them into the means of his destruction. So ineffectual are the most obvious and demonstrative arguments, till divine grace conquer men's natural aversion to a Redeemer's kingdom, and captivate their hearts to the obedience of faith.
To have reviled and distionoured Christ, and to have endeavoured to prevent the success of his ministry, had been a daring crime: but these desperate wretches conspire against his life ; and, different as their principles and interests were, form a transient friendship, to be cemented by his blood. Blessed Jesus ! well mightest thou say, Many good works have I shewn yolby and for which of them would you murder me?
What reasoning could be more plain and forcible than this which our Lord used ? and yet, like deaf adders, they stop their ears, and harden their hearts against it. Inhuman creatures, that were more concerned for the safety of a sheep than the happiness of a man! Yet would to God that unworthy temper had died with them ; for surely there are those, even among professing Christians who regard: their cattle more than even the souls committed by Providence to their care, and therefore, no doubt, more than their own too! The indignation which Christ felt on this occasion was a just and amiable passion. Happy they, whose anger, like his, is only awakened by sin, and burns only to destroy thai accersed thing!
The malice of the Pharisees cikl not restrain the benevolence of our compassionate Saviour, nor deprive the poor patient of his cure. Such let our conduct be! Let us not be overcome of evil : let not the most unjust: censures, or the most malicious opposition, break our spirits so as to prevent us from doing our duty. If others are mad with persecuting rage, let us pity them; and let all their fury against the cause of God be improved as a motive to excite our most zealous and courageous endeavours for its service.
Christ retiring to the sea-side cuires great multitudes, and fulfils Isai
ah's prophetic description of his conduct. MARK üi. 7-12. Matt. xii. 15-21.
ND a great multitude followed him from Galilee, and from
Judea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and from beyond Jordan. And a great multitude from the neighbourhood of '1yre and Sidon, having heard what gieat things he cid, came him. And he spoke to his disciples, that a little vessel should be in readiness neat
him, because of the multitude, that they might not throng him. For he had healed many, and indeed all that applied to him ;
so that they rushed in upon him, even as many as were under any scourge of God's afflicting hand, that they might touch him. And they who were possessed with impure spirits, as soon as they saw him, fell down before him ; and cried out, saying, thou art the Son of God.
And he charged them with strictness, that they should not inake him known: that it might be accomplished which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, “ Behold my servant whom I have chosen, my bem loved, in whom my soul does acquiesce : for I will put my Spirit upon him ; and he shall proclaim judgment to the heathen. He shall not contend, nor cry out; nor shall any one hear his voice in the streets, as giving a disquieting alarm. He shall not break a bruised reed, nor extinguish the smoking flax*, when it is beginning to kindle, till he şend forth judgment to victory ; or till he make his righteous cause triumph over all opposition. And the Gentiles shall confide in his name." Chap. xlii. 1-4.
REFLECTIONS. Surely face does not more exactly answer to face in water than the character of Christ drawn by the prophet, to his temper and conduct as described by the Evangelists. How should Zion rejoice, and the daughter of Jerusalem shout, that such a King cometh unto her, meek and having salvation ! Let us with pleasure trace his gentle administration, and with a cheerful confidence commit our souls to so kind and so faithful a hand : far from breaking, he will strengthen the bruised reed; far from yuenching the smoking flax, he will rather blow it up into a flame.
How well does it become the disciples of Christ, and especially how well does it become his ministers, to imitate w.hat was so amiable in their Lord, and not to despise the day of small things! Let us not strive nor cry ; but, laying aside all mnecessary .contentions and angry debates, let us receive one another as Christ hath received us, and, avoiding all vain ostentation, let us silently and meekly attend, each of us, to the discharge of his proper office. So may we hope that the cause of religion will go on successfully around us, and that righteousness will in due time be brought forth to complete victory over. all opposition, and, by its own genuine influences, be happily established in the earth.
The Gentiles trust in a Redeemer's name, and the British isles are numbered among those that wait for his law. May our souls with humble submission bow themselves to receive it, and observe it with such faithful care and obedient regards, that our example, wherever it is seen, may promote the reception of it among those that as yet are strangers to it!
• Proverbial expressions to signify a person of a most gentle character.
Our Lord, having spent the night in prayer on a mountain, chooses the
twelve apostles ; and performs a great number of miracles. vi. 12-19. Mark üi. 13–19.
ND it came to pass in those days, that he went forth to a moun
tain to pray; and he continued all night at his devotions, in an orutory devoted to the service of God*. And when it was day, he called his disciples to hini, even those whom he pleased, and they came to him ; and out of them he chose and constituted twelve, whom he also named apostles; that they should continually be with him ; and that he might send them abroad to preach, and to have power to heal distempers, and to cast out demons“; and they were these : Simon whom he sirnanied Peter, that is, a rock ; and James the son of Zeb
and John the brother of James; and he sirnamed them Boanerges, which signifies, Sons of thunder; and Andrew; and Philip; and Bartholomew ; and Matthew, or Levi ; and Thomas ; and James the son of Alpheus ; and Thaddeus, also called Judas, or Jude, the brother of James ; and Simom the Canaanite, called also Zelotes ; and Judas Iscariot, or a man of Carioth (Josh. xv. 25.) who also was the truitor, that even betrayed him.
And he came down from the mountain with them, and stood in the plain : and the crowd of his disciples gathered round him, and a multitude of people from all Judea, and Jerusalem, and from the shore of Tyre and Sidon ; who came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases : And they also who were infested with unclean spirits ; and they were cured. And the whole multitude endeavoured to touch him ; for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.
REFLECTIONS. When we consider how much the church in all ages has been indebted to the labours of the apostles, and how much we ourselves owe to them, we shall see great reason of thankfulness to our wise and gracious Master, who was pleased to assign this work to his servants, and so eminently to qualify them for it. It is observable, that before he sent them forth, he chose them to be with him in a more constant attendance on his person and ministry. May all who succeed them as preachers of the gospel, be such as have intimately known Christ themselves, and have been accustomed to spiritual converse with him; that they may with the greater ability, zeal, and efficacy, recommend him to others!
We may assure ourselves that these his future ministers had no inconsiderable share in those petitions in which, with unabating fervour and intenseness of devotion, our Redeemer spent this memorable night. And if we have any regard for the support of religion in the rising age, let us likewise be earnestly praying both for them that are already in the ministry, and for such as are preparing for it.
* There were several such places, called Proscucha, or prayer-houses' situate by rivers, surrounded by trees, and open at the top.