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Such are the several branches of moral righteousness inculcated by the Son of God; but some are so perverse in their dispositions, and so obstinately attached to their evil practices and errors, that it is impossible to reclaim them; and therefore our Saviour advises his followers not to attempt it: Give not, says he, that which is holy unto the dogs; neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they tread them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. Lastly, that it might not be supposed that the moral precepts of christianity were above the attainment of mankind, our Lord proceeded to inform his hearers, how gracious, and full of compassion, their heavenly father was, and how ready to hear and assist all who called upon him; and in consequence advised them humbly to intreat his assistance, and at the same time that they exerted their utmost endeavours to do his will, and be found in the way of his commandments. Ask, says he, and it shall be given; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. Our Lord appeals to their own feelings towards their children, as an encouragement to be earnest in their petitions to their heavenly Father: If ye being evil, says he, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father, which is in heaven, give good things to them that ask him? But, that they might not depend on the divine assistance without the diligent exertion of their utmost endeavours, our Lord immediately adds, Enter ye in at the straight gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat; because straight is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth to life, and few there be that find it.
The illustrious preacher, before he concluded his discourse, proceeded to warn his hearers of false prophets and teachers, who would come with fair pretences; but as their lives and conversations were not
answerable to their profession, nor honourable to the cause they espoused, they were to be despised and disregarded: Ye shall know them by their fruits, said the divine teacher; do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. It is not the pretences to extraordinary piety and goodness; it is not the most flaming zeal, or the most ardent devotion, that will compensate for a disregard to the divine commands, or a departure from the unvariable rules of righteousness and goodness. It is not every one that saith Lord, Lord, said the exalted Saviour of mankind, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. And then he sums up the whole with a beautiful and striking simile, intended to demonstrate the absolute necessity of such a regard to the words of CHRIST, influenced the mind and determined the conduct in an universal and persisting obedience: Therefore, said he, whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. Thus ended our Lord's excellent and admirable sermon. The multitudes stood around him with the utmost attention and surprise, The plain tokens of divinity which attended his discourse, joined with his all-commanding eloquence, attracted every eye, and affected every heart: but what surprised them the more was, the difference of his doctrine, from what they before had heard, for he taught them as one hav ing authority, and not as the Scribes.
CHRIST having finished his sermon on the mount, repairs to Capernaum, and on his way there, is met by a leprous person, whom he cleanses: On his entering the city, he is accosted by a Roman Centurion, whose servant was ill of the palsy, whom he heals: He afterwards repairs to the Synagogue on the Sabbath day, where he dispossesseth a devil: He cures Peter's wife's mother of a fever, and many other diseased persons: He travels through Galilee; and directs the disciples to take a great draught of fishes.
THE exalted Saviour of sinners, having finished his
sermon, came down from the mountain, attended by a great concourse of people, who had listened to his discourse, with the mixt emotions of wonder and joy. They surrounded the divine person of our Redeemer, with the most respectful regard, and soon an incident arose which gave them fresh cause of wonder and praise. As he was on his way to Capernaum, he was met by a leprous person, who doubtless having heard of his wonderful works, and the condescending goodness with which he relieved the afflicted and diseased, threw himself with the utmost humility at his feet, and cried, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
The species of leprosy common amongst the Eastern nations, and the Jews, was very nauseous and infectious, as well as extremely hard to be cured. Our Lord was not deterred by this, from approaching an object so loathsome; but, full of pity, he condescended so far as to touch him, with this reply, I will: be thou clean. The dire infection immediately fled before the touch of the Son of God; who charged the person, thus instantaneously healed, not to publish the matter abroad, but go directly and shew himself to the priest,
offering, at the same time, the oblations which the law in such cases required.
The blessed JESUS then proceeded to Capernaum, but as he entered the city, he was accosted by a Roman centurion, who with the care and tenderness of an indulgent master, informed him of the dreadful condition of his servant, who was afflicted with a paralytic disorder, and grievously tormented with pain. The compassionate Redeemer of mankind, listened to his complaint with pitying attention, and replied to his address, that he would come and heal him. The centurion thought this goodness too much to be expected by one who was not of the Israelitish nation, and therefore told our Lord, that he was not worthy so illustrious a person should come under his roof; and he, very probably, having heard of the nobleman's son, who, while he lay sick at Capernaum, was healed by JESUS, when he was so far off as Cana, desired our Lord only to speak the word, and he doubted not but his servant would be healed; for he believed, that diseases and devils were as much under the command of our Redeemer, as his soldiers were subject to the will, and obeyed the word of their commander. Our Lord was well pleased with the centurion's faith, and commended it in the highest terms; I have not found, said he, so great faith, no, not in Israel.
The believing stranger, having applied the most exalted ideas of the divine power and goodness to JESUS CHRIST, who appeared to be no more than a man, our Lord took occasion, from the open confession of his faith, to declare the gracious design of his. Almighty Father towards the Gentile world, and gave the surrounding multitude to understand, that the divine goodness was not confined to the seed of Abraham, nor to the land of Israel: And I say unto you, said he, that many shall come from the East, and the West, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. And having a clear view of the obstinacy, impenitence, and final unbelief of the
Jewish nation, he added, But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Having thus spoken to the listening throng, our Lord directed his discourse to the centurion, and said, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee; and immediately the servant was healed.
On the next Sabbath day, JESUS went to the Jewish synagogue at Capernaum, and instructed the people with such energy and power, and at the same time, with such remarkable plainness and simplicity, that the congregation heard him with the greatest pleasure and surprise: and to increase their admiration, there was a person in the assembly, that was possessed by an unclean and wicked spirit, who cried out in the most dreadful manner: Let us alone, what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee, who thou art, the Holy one of God. But the blessed JESUS, who wanted no such testimony, commanded him to keep silence, and immediately come out of the man; this command, the wicked spirit durst not disobey, and directly complied, leaving the disordered person, to the astonishment of the whole congregation.
It is constantly alledged, by those who are enemies to our religion, and delight to cavil with the conduct of our Redeemer, and depreciate his mighty deeds, that the persons who are said in the gospels to be possessed by devils, were only affected by some strange and unaccountable disorders; and because sepulchres were esteemed polluted places, the melancholy persons who frequented them, were said to be possessed with the devil. And the adversaries of our religion, are fond of inquiring, why there should be any more dæmons in Judea, than in any other country.
To these objections it may, with great certainty be replied, that these dæmoniacs were not persons affect