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daily searching the scriptures, as the oracles of God and the great fountains of life and salvation. We profess a regard to them may that regard never be our condemnation! or the blessed penmen witness against us, as Moses against those who gloried in his writings, and yet wanted a true faith in them!
In proportion to the degree in which we are convinced of the truth of Christ's religion, let us set ourselves to cultivate the temper which he exercised. He sought not glory from men, but made his Father's will the rule of his actions, and his Father's honour the end of them. Let us not greedily catch at human applause, but aim at an infinitely nobler object, even the honour that cometh from God alone, the only true judge of actions and characters, because the only discerner of hearts.
May we have not only his word in our hands, but his love remaining in us; that thereby our natural aversion to the methods of his saving grace in the gospel may be subdued, that notwithstanding the obstinacy of our degenerate wills we may come unto Christ that we may have life! May we receive him with the greatest readiness, as coming to us in his Father's name; and not only for a season rejoice in his light, but stedfastly continue in his word, as made known to all nations for the obedience of faith; that the advantages which we enjoy may not be found to aggravate our guilt and to condemn us with the unbelieving Jews!
Christ shewed the tenderness of his compassion even in the severity of his rebukes, and spoke these awful and awakening words that these his unjust and inveterate enemies might be saved. May they be the power of God unto our salvation! as they will be, if we believe in him whom he hath sent..
MATTHEW XII. 1-8.-MARK II. 23-28.—
AND it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn-fields; and his disciples were an hungered, and began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat, rubbing them in their hands. But when the Pharisees saw it, certain of them said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath-day? They said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath-day. And Jesus answering
them said unto them, Have ye never read so much as this, what David did, when he had need and was an hungered, he, and they that were with him; How he went into the house of God in the days of Ahimelech the high-priest, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbathdays the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, that in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath. Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
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, (Matt. xxiii. 24,) 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. (Luke xx. 47, and xi. 39.)
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 to their own arbitrary invention, 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.
MATTHEW XII. 9-14.-MARK III. 1-6.—
AND it came to pass also on another sabbath, when he was departed thence, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and behold, there was a man whose right hand was withered. And the Scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath-day: and they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath-days? that they might find an accusation against him. But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath-days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it? But they held their peace. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath-day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath-days. And when he had looked round about upon them all with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and his hand was restored whole, like as the other.
Then the Pharisees went out, and were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus: And straightway took counsel
with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.
What actions are so fair and lovely, that malice cannot turn them into reproach? What characters are so unblemished, what so exemplary, that uncharitableness cannot revile and condemn them? While 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 dishonoured 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 you, and for which of them would you murder me? (John x. 32.)
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 that accursed thing?
The malice of the Pharisees did 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.
MATT. XII. 15–21.—Mark III. 7—12.
BUT when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence with his disciples to the sea: and great multitudes followed him from Galilee, and from Judea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and from beyond Jordan, and he healed them; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him. And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him, because of the multitude, lest they should throng him. For he had healed many, insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues. For there went virtue out of him, and healed them all. And they that were vexed with unclean spirits were healed. And the unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God.And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Behold my servant whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.
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. (Zech. ix. 9.) 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 quenching the smoking flux, he will rather blow it up into a flame.