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ficient to say,
willing to remain uncertain whether Jesus was the Messiah, but endeavoured to obtain satisfaction by applying to the best source of information. In the same manner let us act, in the like circumstances. If there be any truth
upon the reception or rejection of which important consequences appear to depend, but attended with some degree of obscurity and difficulty, and about which the world is divided, think it not suf
“ the subject is attended with difficulty; great and wise men differ in their opinion; it is not likely that I shall ever be able to settle my judgment; I will sit down contented with my present uncertainty, and if I hereby remain without the knowledge of an important truth, I hope God will excuse my ignorance:” This conduct would discover an indifference to the truth, unworthy of a being endowed with the powers of reason, and highly criminal. It is the duty of every man to employ the rational faculty which God has given him, in searching and inquiring for religious truth; and in proportion to the importance of the subject, should be our application and industry; nor is it. possible to say whether a clear knowledge of it can be attained, or not, until we have made a fair trial. If we give up the pursuit, before this has been done, we are chargeable with all the evils which may arise from our ignorance. Let it be our maxim that it is better to get wisdom than gold, and understanding than silver: but he that refuseth instruction, or will not seek after it, despiseth his own soul. Blessed is the man who is not offended with the truth; who has resolution to embrace it under the most disgusting form, and can sacrifice to his love of it, his interest, his inclinations and his prejudices.
2. We may learn from this account, what is the proper and most convincing evidence of the Messiahship of Jesus. When he is asked whether he be the Christ, he does not wish the person who proposed the question to take his own assertion for the fact, but refers him to the proof of his claim to that character; and in this he makes his appeal not to the reasonableness and excellence of his doctrine; nor to the virtues of
his character, which, however, deserved great stress; but to the miracles which he wrought. These were so numerous and extraordinary; so far surpassing, in these respects, the miracles of those prophets who went before him, that they were a proof both of his divine mission, and of his being the promised Messialt. Το this standard let us make our appeal, for our own satisfaction and the conviction of others: if no one can change the course of nature without the assistance of him who established it, and if that assistance can never be given to one who endeavours to propagate false and dangerous doctrines, then may we conclude that whatever Christ teaches us is the truth. This evidence affords us a solid rock for our faith, which nothing can shake.
3. We see that it was pointed out as the characteristic of the times of the Messiah, that the poor should have the gospel preached unto them. When this took place in the times of Jesus Christ, it was a proof that he was the Messiah, as his character corresponded with the prophecy.
It is also so agreeable to the conduct of Providence in other instances, that it may, independently of any connection with prophecy, be regarded as an evidence of the divine origin of the Christian religion: for the most valuable blessings of Providence are distributed with an impartial hand: the sun shines upon all, and all men enjoy the blessings of health and mental capacity, without any regard to their condition in life. It, therefore, so important a favour as a revelation from heaven is communicated to the world, we have reason to expect that it will be bestowed with the like impartiality. A gospel addressed and accommodated only to the rich, could not surely come from the Father of all mankind. The wisdom as well as the benevolence of the Divine Being, shines in such a disposition of things: for the poor are more ready to receive new and unpopular doctrines than the rich. It was proper, therefore, that the Christian religion should be addressed to them, and it appears in fact that the first proselytes to Christianity were principally from that class of people.
Let us learn to imitate the wis.
dom and goodness of Providence, in the attention which it has paid to the poor, by taking more pains to instruct them in the principles of religion. Here is a wide field for our talents and exertions, greatly neglected at present, but which, if properly cultivated, would abundantly reward our labours. The little attention which is paid to the religious instruction of the poor, is a melancholy proof how deficient we are in the benevolent spirit of Christianity.
Matthew xi. 16. to the end.
16. But whereunto shall I liken this generation ? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, “ to their companions,
Christ does not mean to compare the unbelieving Jews to children who call to their companions, but to those to whom they call, and whom they reproach as being pleased with nothing.
17. And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented, ye have not joined in the lamentation.
In eastern countries it is usual to hire persons for the purpose of mourning for the dead, which they do with loud and united cries. On these occasions, when the signal is given by one person, the rest of the company join in the lamentation: it is to this custom that allusion is made, when it is said, “we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented:” the meaning of the comparison is, that neither the severity of John the Baptist, and the austerity of his manners, nor the mildness of Christ, and the condescension with which he accommodated himself to the manners and weaknesses of men, were able to affect the Jews; but rather contributed to harden them. This reproach is to be applied principally to the Pharisees and doctors of the law, and not to the Jewish nation in general, who heard John with pleasure, and were baptized by him. The whole language is proverbial.
18. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a dæmon.
This may refer to the ordinary diet of John, who lived in an abstenious manner, and denied himself common food: for Luke says that he came neither eating bread nor drinking wine: it may also very well signify frequent fasts: for the disciples of John said to Jesus; “ why do we fast often; but thine eat and drink;" which last words are used as equivalent to not fasting. From the frequent fasts, or abstemious life, of John, who spent his time in the wilderness, secluded from the chearful society of men, the Pharisees took occasion to accuse him of being afflicted with melancholy madness; or, which meant the same thing, with having a dæmon: for they considered all madmen, whether melancholy or raving, as being possessed by a dæmon.
19. The son of man came eating and drinking, living upon the food used by other men and not practising the austerity of fasting; and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
By wisdom we are here to understand the wise counsel of God, calling the Jews to repentance, both by the severity of John and the mildness of Christ, that it might leave nothing untried, and that they might have no one to blame. The children of wisdom, are those who love and honour her; in the same manner as the sons of peace, are those who love and cultirate it, or the peaceable. Those who justify wisdom, are those who approve and applaud it. Thus the disciples of John and Christ approved of the method which God had taken for their instruction, and esteemed it to be right and just. Christ applies this observation, which was probably a familiar maxim of the Rabbies, to the objections which the Jews made to the character of John and Jesus, in order to shew that neither of them had been entirely uscless.
20. Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not.
21. Woe unto thee, rather, “ Alas for thee,” Chorazin! Alas for thee, Bethsaida: for if the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, in sackcloth and ashes.
These words are not an imprecation of vengeance upon these cities, but only a denunciation of the evils which they were about to bring upon themselves by their impenitence, as a warning to others to avoid the same punishment. Tyre and Sidon were two maritime cities of Phænicia, a country bordering upon Judæa, eminent for their commerce and wealth, and for that corruption which great prosperity usually introduces. This at length brought down upon them the vengeance of beaven, and they were entirely destroyed. Before that event they had been solemnly admonished, by the prophet Ezekiel (Chapp. xxvi, xxvii
, xxviii.) of their sins, and their approaching fate; but without effect.---