« PreviousContinue »
How much good that I ought to have done have I left undone? Into how many snares, which I might have avoided, have I fallen? If I have a good hope concerning the spiritual state of the deceased, how thankful ought I to be, that my defects, and bad examples, have not availed to prevent his entering into life? Or if I can congratulate myself, (as some happy individuals may do,) that my uniform conduct, my unpremeditated words, my exhortations, my prayers, have been favorable to virtue and godliness in those around me, how thankful ought I to be for such a distinguished privilege. More to be valued than all which this world can afford is the consolation of having contributed to help an immortal soul forward, while agonizing to enter the strait gate; or of having strengthened and comforted the weary pilgrim while walking in the narrow way.
With what horror would the irreligious father, son, or husband, look back upon his influence on the everlasting condition of his deceased relative, if he only had a proper view of the subject? How would he mourn day and night over abused privileges, and perverted influence. How would he shudder at the thought, that numberless opportunities of doing good to one, whose future condition ought to have employed much of his attention, are lost for ever; that the injury done to the departed individual is irreparable.
such a person how is the value of the soul enhanced; how does every thing else dwindle and shrink in the comparison. Let such a person take warning by
the past, and be wiser hereafter. Let him seek the salvation of his own soul; and, should he become an heir of life, he will be ready to devote himself peculiarly to promoting the spiritual benefit of his surviving relatives. This naturally leads to another important use to be made of the death of friends.
2. Those, who have lost near relatives by death, should be quickened to the performance of all their duties to their surviv ing friends. In this way their reflections on past negligence or indolence can be turned to good account. Unless this be done, they will become more hardened and negligent in future, and further removed than ever from exhibiting a holy and blameless example. If no compunction is felt on account of a bad influence exerted on those who are gone to their final audit; if no resolutions of amendment are formed over the graves of those whom we neglected to benefit when we had it in our power; we may well conclude, that we are given over, for the present at least, to the most deplorable stupidity.
Let us remember, my dear fellow immortals, that the time is short. We have no years, no months, not a day, to lose. Some of our friends have already gone to witness the realities of the eternal world; others will quickly follow. If we have duties to perform, they must be performed now.
To defer them, is in effect to say that we choose not to perform them. Let us then ascertain our duties; particularly our duties to our friends and relatives; those duties which concern them as rational and
immortal beings; and let not a day pass over our heads without seeing them performed.
Many persons deceive themselves with projects of future kindness and benevolence. But every future project, which is at variance with the present tenor of the projector's life, is a delusive dream. Let no plea of a more convenient season, or more ample means to be enjoyed hereafter, satisfy him, who feels the weight of a present obligation. It is true you may have more leisure to show kindness, and
means of beneficence, hereafter than at present; but that should not hinder you from doing all the good within the compass of your present means. It is no less true, that those to whom you intend shewing future kindness may very probably soon be removed from all earthly friends; and that too without ever experiencing those attentions which you actually intended to bestow, but which death intercepted.
When a person stands by the grave of an intimate friend, he is under the best circumstances to feel his obligations to surviv. ors, and to realize that he and they are beings made for eternity. Let this feeling be cherished till it becomes habitual, and influences the conversation, the prayers, and the life. When tempted to indulge in anger, in contempt, in unkindness, let cach one stop himself with the question, Am I prepared to do an injury, perhaps a permanent injury, to an immortal being? O let me rather benefit the souls of my fellow creatures, at whatever personal inconvenience; let me perform all my relative du
ties with exemplary strictness, so that the guilt of destroying the soul may not lie at my door.
3. It will be useful for those who have been bereaved of near friends to contemplate the present condition of the deceased. How does the unembodied spirit look back from the confines of the eternal state, and regard the pursuits, the aims, the strife and bustle of this infatuated world. What are the objects which possess a durable importance in the view of such a mind. How vain appear the riches, and all the envied distinctions of this mortal state! How odious appear the wars, the oppression and cruelty, the idolatry and superstition, the insensibility to eternal realities, the slanders and private injuries, the family contentions and groundless animosities, which distract and torment the human race, and render the few years of life irksome and full of anguish. How unreasonable and foolish now appear all the little jealousies, or more inveterate prejudices and envies, which so often arise between good men. How wise and dignified now seems a kind, forgiving,
placable, peace-making temper, and how foolish seems the contrary. How grand and noble appear all those charitable designs which have for their object the salvation of souls. How worthy of the most strenuous exertions, of engrossing the whole soul and impelling to the greatest possible activity, are the employments of preaching the Gospel, either to a stated charge in a civilized country, or to the heathen; of giving pious instruc. tions to children; of superintend ing a seminary of youth and ed
ucating them in the fear of God; of making and executing salutary laws such as promote genuine morality and true virtue-; of mitigating the sufferings of the poor and sick; in short, of doing good on Christian principles and with a just view of Christian responsibility. How elevated is the character of a true benefactor, in the humblest sphere; how despicable that of a tyrant and oppressor, though surrounded with myr iads of servile flatterers, and attended by every imaginable circumstance of pomp and grandeur.
4. Let mourners for deceased friends consider what will soon be their own situation. Soon, very soon, my friends, you too must leave the world, and your unembodied spirits will either enter into rest, or sink to perdition. How will the world and your present pursuits appear to you then? You stand on the brink of the grave; are you aware of it? Do you realize it? Are you prepared for the change? Ask yourselves every morning and every evening, if you should act as you now do, if the next step were into the grave? If you answer in the negative, all is not right. Be wise; think of the value of your souls; aspire after heaven; flee from the A. B.
wrath to come.
PLAIN SCRIPTURE READINGS. No. IX.
MATTHEW VIII, 1—17.
Various Readings. VERSE 4. Griesbach supposes a different method of spelling the
proper name Moses, from that in the received Greek text, has nearly equal claims to be admitted; but this could not change a letter in English.
V. 5. for Jesus read he.
V. 8. for speak the word only, read only command with a word. The change in this place, is occasioned by putting the Greek noun which is translated word in a different case. The meaning is not altered in the slightest degree.
V. 13. The word translated centurion as admitted by Griesbach is of a different declension from that in the received text. This has no effect on the meaning.
Not one of these proposed alterations can change the meaning in the least.
Dr. Campbell and the Improve ed Version have given Sir instead of Lord, in the 2nd, 6th and 8th verses of this chapter. This translation appears to me to be an error of the very first importance; and directly contrary to a principle on which Dr. Campbell has repeatedly insisted with great force; viz. that a word of very extensive signification should not be rendered by a word of a more limited, certainly not by a word of very limited, signification. The word here properly translated Lord, in the common version, like the English word by which it is render. ed, has perhaps as ex.ensive an application as any word in the Greek or English languages. I say as extensive an application; for the meaning scems not to be various, in the immense variety of cases in which it is used.
When a person, or a being, is
addressed by the appellation of Lord, the meaning is, that he, who is thus addressed, has the disposal of the favor asked, or has an authority and control over others, or a property in something, in reference to which disposal, authority, control, or property, the word Lord is used. So it is with the Greek word, which here occurs. Throughout the Septuagint it is used as the translation of the Hebrew Jehovah, because God is the Sovereign Disposer, the original Possessor and Ruler of all beings and events. In different passages of the Scriptures, the same word is applied to men in the characters of master, husband, and father, because men in those relations have an authority and control over their servants, wives, and children. The force of the word in each case is to be learned from the known character of the person, or being, addressed, or from the nature of the address itself. Thus, if a man says, Lord have mercy upon me, and forgive my sins, we know he is addressing God; because none but God can shew mercy in the manner intended nor can any other forgive sin. But when we hear a servant say, as in Luke xii, 45, My lord delayeth his coming, we are at no loss to perceive that he is speaking of his earthly master. So when Mary used the same word, under the apprehension that she was speaking to the gardener, John xx, 15, she accosted him as the person who had the direction of affairs in that inclosure, and who had, as she imagined, removed the body of her Savior. What I would infer from these observations is, that
the original word in question should be always translated by a word of like general application;
or, if some few exceptions
should be allowable, they should be used in cases so clear that there is no danger of limiting the sense, and thus perverting it. The case last quoted, for instance, is so plain, that there is no danger of mistake in translating the passage as our version has it. Similar cases occur in Mat. xiii, 27, and xxi, 32. the cases in the passage under consideration are by no means of this class. Let us consider them.
Previously to commencing this chapter, Matthew had used the word translated Lord in thirteen instances. In the ten first, it is applied, as throughout the Septuagint, to Jehovah; in the eleventh, which is Mat. vi, 24, the meaning doubtless is, No man can serve two supreme Lords; in the other two, Mat. vii, 21, 22, it is applied by our Savior to himself, as the Supreme Arbiter of life and death, as the final Judge of the human race. What propriety is there, then, in translating the very next pas sages in which the word occurs, as though the leper, and the centurion, considered our Lord as a mere man? The word in the original docs not imply that those who used it received our Savior in the character of a mere man; but the word Sir does. Why not translate by the same word in the preceding chapter thus: Not every one that saith unto me, Sir, Sir, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven? And, Many will say unto me in that day, Sir, Sir, have we not prophesied in thy name? This would indeed be intolerable; but whether the
same translation of the passage in question, is not equally unwarranted, the learned and candid will do well to inquire.
Perhaps we have no means of determining precisely in what light the leper and centurion viewed Christ; but it appears to me much more probable that they regarded him as God incarnate, than as a mere man. My
reasons are these:
Our Savior had begun his ministry with a general proclamation of the necessity of a moral change in the soul of man, before he could be prepared for happiness; he had announced the approach of the kingdom of heaven; he had exerted an absolute control over the most incurable diseases, thus performing divine works, (such works as God only can perform,) without referring to any power superior to his own; he had taken the station of the great Law-giver of the universe; and had spoken in the most familiar manner of what he should do as the final Judge and Rewarder of mankind. After the sublime display of his perfections on the mount, he was soon intreated by the leper to perform a cure on him. It is bardly possible that the leper could have been ignorant of the surprising events just recapitulat ed. It is nearly certain, that his knowledge of these prompted him to apply for a
How does he apply? He first worshipped the Savior. I do not lay stress on the word worship, as certainly implying adoration. He expressed his petition in a short but very significant manner; Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. Here is certainly an ascription of
divine power; and the only question about it is, whether it was made ignorantly or knowingly, incorrectly or justly. Beyond all question, however, our Lord must have seen that divine power was ascribed to him. Does he decline receiving that ascription? Does he inform the leper that any mistake had been com. mitted? On the contrary, he acknowledges the justice of the ascription, and exerts the power which had been ascribed to him, using the very words, with which the leper had chosen to express his petition: I will; be thou clean. Surely this was saying, in as forcible a manner as language or conduct could say, I do possess the power which thou hast ascribed to me, and I will exert it for thy benefit.
Nor is the language of the centurion less conclusive. professes his full confidence, that Christ had a perfect control over every disease, and that by speaking the word he could heal every malady, without regard to the inveteracy of the complaint, or the distance of the sufferer. The manner, in which this confidence was expressed, excited astonishment in the mind of our Savior, and called forth a warm encomium,-an encomium which implies, that the language of the centurion was in no respect too strong or unquaiified. Unless Christ had possessed the power here ascribed to him, I cannot believe that he would have suffered the mistakes of these suppliants to go uncorrected. If he actually possessed the power, I see no way to avoid the conclusion that he is truly divine.
In order to ascertain with