Page images

had no idea of a cure effected at a distance from the objeci. But how shall we account for the cold, repulsive reception given to the personal solicitation of the nobleman; “except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe ;” and for the frank and cheerful compli. ance with the centurion's message, “ I will come and heal him ?” Jesus will have his sovereignty felt and acknowledged in all thing. Humility and self-abase. ment are the most powerful claims of a suppliant, and the sublimer faith has the superior power with God and prevails.

Instead of being transported with joy at the thought of this proffered visit, the centurian shrinks from the approach of Christ. A sense of guilt and unworthiness stares him in the face. The presence of a personage so pure, so exalted, he feels himself unable to support, and deputes other friends to meet Jesus, to renew his suit, but to deprecate the degradation of his dignified character, by conversing with one so mean as himself, and by coming under a roof so unworthy to receive such a guest. Finding however that Jesus drew nigher and nigher, he at length assumes resolution, and goes forth himself to meet him, with a heart overwhelmed, overflowing, and a mouth filled with arguments. Never did imagiantion conceive, never did heart feel, never did tongue express a strain of reasoning more for. cible, more affecting, more sublime, “ The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof : but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me, and I say to this man, go, and he goeth, and to another come, and he cometh ; and to my servant, do this, and he doeth it.” The knowledge which he had of his own profession is the foundation of his argument. In a military establishment, all must be cheerful subordination and prompt obedience. He himself was at once under aus Vol. IV.

2 S


thority, and in authority. He had not the idea of disputing the commands of his superior, and he knew that his word, that his nod was a law to his inferiors. Under this notion of military discipline he contemplates the supreme authority of Christ as extending to all persons, elements and events. His own orders were obeyed, though his person were at a distance and unseen. What then should retard the execution of a will which all the powers of nature are unable to resist ? “ Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.”

“ When Jesus heard it, he marvelled," not as an ordinary man wonders at something new, striking and He knew what was in man.

The marvellous faith which he graciously pleased to approve and to reward was the operation of his own spirit; but he holds it up as a matter of wonder to all who were present, and as a subject of reproof to those of the house of Israel, who, with all their superior advantages, possessing as they did, “the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came :” nevertheless, received their promised, their expected Messiah coldly, doubtingly, reluctantly ; and at length utterly rejected him, and put him to death. This leads our blessed Lord to unfold the approaching admission of the Gentile nations into the church of God, by believing and embracing his gospel, and the rejection of the posterity of Abraham after the flesh, because of their unbelief : “And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east, and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven : But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into utter darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Jesus delivers this all-important doctrine under the solemnity of an “I say unto you ;” “mark me well; my words are true and faithful, they are serious and interesting, they concern every one among you, they shall all have their accomplishment." The assembly to whom this was address ed, consisted of a great variety of persons. It was composed of the elders of the Jews, who had come to intercede in behalf of their benefactor, and who were waiting the issue ; of the centurion himself, originally a Gentile and an idolater; of the friends whom he had dispatched to meet Jesus, who were likewise in all

probability Roman soldiers, and of course heathens and idolaters; and of a mixed multitude who followed Christ wherever he went. The highest privilege which proselyted Gentiles could obtain from Jewish bigotry was permission to worship the true God in the outer court of the temple, which was appropriated to them, and called by their name.

To them how grateful must have been the intimation of being made partakers of all the privileges of the sons of God! of rising to their full and equal rank in the great family of the common Father of all, of being admitted into the society, and of enjoying the felicity of the venerable founders of the Jewish church, a branch only of “the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven!” The precious faith which exalted the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to a place in the kingdom of God, was to be diffused in every direction, and to raise men“ of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues,” to the “ inheritance of a kingdom prepared,” for all the faithful, “ from the foundation of the world.” The Jews, on the other hand, valued themselves on their exclusive privileges. They scorned to have any dealings with even their neighbours and brethren the Samaritans. They held themselves contaminated by coming into contact with the impure heathen; they appropriated to themselves a right to the favour of God. To persons labouring under such prejudices, which had been instilled into them with their mothers' milk, what an awful denunciation was it, that not only should the Gentile nations be received within the pale of the church, but received to their own exclusion ? “ Be. hold,” exclaims the apostle, in contemplating this very object, “ Buchold the goodness and severity of God.” “Of a truth we perceive that God is no respector of persons : but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” But the singular imagary, and the very language by which thier view of the Redeemer's kingdom is conveyed, deserve a particular consideration. May they be deeply impressed upon our hearts and minds. Many, shall come,” says

says Christ, as he surveyed the gradual progress, and the unlimited extent of his empire. The narrow spirit of Judaism is not peculiar to that people. It seems to be a general character of human nature.

Abraham and Lot were under the necessity of separating, because “ the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together.” How often has a well of water kindled a flame Whence come pride and envy

? whence come fraud and cunning? whence come wars and fighting? whence come monopolies and exclusions, but from the selfishness of an individual, or of a few, to appropriate to themselves what be. longs to many? Were the operation of this spirit confined to the things of time, it might be accounted for. The desires of the human mind are unbound. ed, and the objects of pursuit are few and small. What another acquires seems to be so much taken away from me. Though in truth there is provision sufficiently ample for all ; bread enough and to spare, room enough and to spare, were the real wants and the reasonable wishes of nature to settle the distri. bution. But that the kingdom of heaven sliould be

among brethren!

The king

subjected to a monopoly; that its keys should be
seized by the bold hand of an usurping individual
or of an arrogant party, would exceed belief, did not
the history even of the christian church establish the
fact. The disciples of Christ themselves brought into
his school all the contratedness of their Jewish educa.
tion. Even the mild and affectionate John was taint-
ed with it. “Master," said he, “we saw one cast-
ing out devils in thy name: and we forbade him, be-
cause he followeth not with us.' They are for call.
ing down fire from heaven to consume a whole vil-
lage of Samaritans, in resentment of a mere piece of
incivility. They must have the highest places when
their master should come to the throne.
dom must be restored to Israel, whatever might be.
come of the rest of the world.

This spirit, though frequently and severely reprobated by their benevolent master, has unhappily been transmitted, and mu. tual anathemas and excommunications have been thun. dered by furious sectaries, who have one after another desolated the earth, to secure to themselves the undi. vided possession of a heaven which they are incapable of enjoying. If the Saviour of men says, “ many shall come,” who dares to limit the holy One of Israel, and to say, “ few shall be saved ?”

Many shall come from the east and west.The other two cardinal points are specified in a correspond. ing passage of the gospel according to St. Luke, chap. xiii. 29. The import of the expression is obvious. It denotes the attractive influence of Christianity over men of every region under heaven, and the universal paternal care and love of Him who “ hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth,” The day of Pentecost exhibited the first fruits of this glorious harvest.

When the apostles, “ filled with the Holy Ghost, spaķe with other tongues as the spirit gave them utterance,

» 65 there were dwell.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »