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“ never known the way of righteousness,” the judgment to be passed on them who, “after “ they have known it, turn from the holy “ commandment delivered unto them,” cannot be doubtful. This is the weightiest consideration that can be urged, for perseverance in our Christian calling. It lays the axe to the root of all vain speculations on what may, or may not, be hoped for, independently of the Christian dispensation. To those who enjoy the benefits of that dispensation, nothing can supersede its necessity, nothing can avail without it. Here, then, we may close the discussion. Christ is the Author of eternal salvation to all that believe and obey him. Of them that believe or obey him not, through any unavoidable impediments to the knowledge of him, nothing can be affirmed that is properly applicable to our case. For WE have “the record, that God hath given “ unto us eternal life, and that this life is in “ his Son.” This profession let us ever “hold “ fast, without wavering:" and whenever we are tempted to depart from it, let us adopt the resolution of the faithful Apostle, “ Lord, to “ whom shall we go? thou hast the words of 6 eternal life. And we believe and are sure “ that thou art that Christ, the Son of the “ living God.”
MATTH. xi. 5.
poor have the Gospel preached to them.
It was one of the prophetical characteristics of the Messiah, that he should“ preach good
tidings to the meek,” and that “the poor “ should eat and be satisfied” with his heavenly doctrine. This part of his office our blessed Saviour appears to have constantly kept in view, and frequently to have pointed it out to the observation of his followers. In the
very beginning of his ministry, on entering the synagogue at Nazareth to expound the Scriptures, he found the place in the book of the Prophet Esaias where it was written, “ The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, “ because he hath anointed me to preach the
gospel to the poor ; he hath sent me to “ heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliver“ance to the captives, and recovering of sight
to the blind, to set at liberty them that are “ bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the
“ Lord.” And “ he began,” says the Evangelist,“ to say unto them, This day is this “ scripture fulfilled in your ears.” Again, when messengers came to him from John the Baptist, with the inquiry, “ Art thou he that “ should come, or do we look for another ?”— he referred to this special description of him by the prophets :“Go, and shew John again “ those things which ye do hear and see: the “ blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, “ the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, “ the dead are raised
and the poor have “ the gospel preached to them.”
It has been questioned whether our Lord here spake of the poor in the common acceptation of the term, as denoting them who labour under temporal wants and necessities, or them whom he elsewhere calls “ the poor “ in spirit,” persons of humble and tractable dispositions, inclined to receive his doctrine with meekness and docility; since to these latter the Gospel was specially addressed, and was preached with greater certainty of success, than to men whose pride of heart and of understanding tended to disqualify them for the acceptance of some of its humiliating truths. But since our Lord, in the passage before us, speaks simply of the poor
general, and not of the poor in spirit in particular, there is no apparent reason for applying the expression in any other than its ordinary meaning. Nor is it difficult to perceive, that both his doctrine and his demeanour were in this respect strikingly distinguished from what the world had hitherto experienced in any professed teachers of religion.
Before our Lord's coming, the spiritual condition of the poor was, indeed, grievously defective. In heathen countries, the mass of the people appear to have been utterly destitute of religious knowledge. They were never taught how to escape from the tyranny of their lusts and passions, or to render any rational or acceptable service to a Supreme Moral Governor of the universe; but were led to trust in the grossest acts of superstition and idolatry, and to practices the most licentious and detestable, for obtaining the favour of their imaginary deities : what little knowledge of such subjects philosophers of a higher cast gleaned from imperfect tradition, or from their own elaborate reasoning and reflection, was confined, almost entirely, to the limited circle of their own immediate friends and followers, and purposely concealed from the people in general, lest their belief should be shaken in those systems of error and delusion, by which they were ig
norantly kept in awe, and were more easily subjected to the domination of their unfeeling oppressors. With no rational inducement to purify their hearts and lives; with no patterns set before them of sobriety, righteousness, and holiness ; with no lessons of conduct adapted to their own circumstances ; and with no well-grounded expectation of a
recompense of reward,” to which, in a future state, they might look forward as a deliverance from their present troubles and privations;—the state of the heathen poor presents, for the most part, a picture of moral debasement, little elevated above the brute creation, and scarcely regarded by their superiors as deserving of higher consideration.
Among the Jews, the case indeed was different. By the law of Moses, express provision was made for their spiritual as well as temporal exigencies. It enjoined that the commandments of God should be made known to the whole community, and diligently taught to their children and their children's children, throughout all generations. All had an equal participation in spiritual privileges.
All were taken into covenant with God, from their earliest infancy, and had the same faith, the same hope, the same interest in the Divine promises. The