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4. The Lord Jesus Christ should now be considered as thus tenderly expostulating with you who have hitherto resisted his invitations, "How often would I have gathered you together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!" Your case is substantially the same with that of the unbelieving Jews; and these words, as addressed to you, imply that you are in a very exposed and dangerous condition. The Lord Jesus would not propose to gather you under the wings of his protection, if you were not in danger. You are in danger from the evil one, from providential judgments, from the curse of a broken law, from the awards of insulted justice, and from the wrath of an offended God. You are in danger of being cut off in sin, and overwhelmed in sudden and hopeless ruin. But these words imply, farther, that if you will betake yourselves to Jesus Christ, you shall be safe; nay, that he is ready to receive the worst of you under his protection. How can you doubt this, when you hear him so tenderly expostulating with those who killed the prophets, and who, he knew, were so soon to crucify himself? What more can you require to convince you that he is ready to receive you? "Him that cometh unto me," saith he, "I will in no wise cast out." Has he not been long and often calling on you to come to him? Has he not been calling you by providences, by checks of conscience, and by the invitations of his preached gospel? How often would he have gathered you! But these words also imply that you are unwilling to come to him for safety. "Ye would not." Do not deceive yourselves here. You may think you are willing, nay, desirous to be saved; but, whatever you may imagine, you are not willing;-you are not willing to be saved from wrath in the only practicable way, in Christ's way, in the way of grace excluding all boasting, and of holiness striking at the root of all depravity. You have never been willing to have such a salvation as this. Now this unwillingness of yours is the true cause of your ruin. You are unable, it is true, to come to Christ; but your inability consists in the aversion of your hearts. "Ye will not come unto me," saith Christ," that ye might have life." It is intimated, too, in this expostulation, that your unwillingness is very unreasonable, and very lamentable. How affecting to see you voluntarily cleaving to destruction, and refusing the offered safety! Therefore it was that Jesus so pathetically lamented over Jerusalem of old, and therefore it is that he
now laments, and would have us to lament, in the same strain, over you. Be wise at last, and flee for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before you in the gospel.
Finally, let us all welcome the Redeemer, while he is represented to the eye of faith coming in the gospel, to save us, in order that we may be prepared to welcome him when he appears the second time, without sin, unto the final salvation of his people. He is come in the name, with the authority, and with the personal qualifications, of the Lord; let us say, in the language of the Psalmist, "Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord." We must all meet him face to face at last. "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also who pierced him, and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him." How sad the situation of those who would fain join the shout of welcome, but dare not, and cannot! Let us receive him with all our hearts now, that when he is near at hand, and, as it were, heard saying, “Surely I come quickly," we may gladly reply, "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"
LUKE XIV. 1-11.
"And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath-day, that they watched him. 2. And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. 3. And Jesus, answering, spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath-day? 4. And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go: 5. And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the Sabbath-day? 6. And they could not answer him again to these things. 7. And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, 8. When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; 9. And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. 10. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. 11. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
LET pious persons conduct themselves as they may, the ungodly and worldly will never be pleased. "John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, He hath a devil." Jesus Christ observed no such austerity, and they said, "Behold, a gluttonous man, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners." Both of them, however, were right; and "Wisdom is justified of all her children." The portion of our Saviour's history now read will give us an opportunity of observing the working of this discontented and captious spirit, and also furnish us with a variety of useful lessons.
Our Lord, we are here told, "went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees,”* or one of the rulers of the Pharisees; that is, as some think, one of the rulers of the people who was of the sect of the Pharisees; or, as others think, a person of great influence among the Pharisees. Opposed as this Pharisee, like the most of his sect, appears to have been
to the gospel, our Lord did not refuse to hold any intercourse with him, for that would have been to have declined a favourable opportunity of promoting the gospel in a way which by no means compromised his own principles and character, or acknowledged the correctness of those of the Pharisees. The expression, “to eat bread," means to partake, in every way, of the hospitality of the table, as at dinner or supper. It was on the Sabbath-day, that our Lord thus went to eat bread in the house of the Pharisee. Let it be observed, that he did this during the course of his journey, and in some place where he wished to stop on the Sabbath to teach. It is obvious that, in such circumstances, he stood in need of hospitality, and that he could not have obtained any refreshment, except in the house of a stranger. His conduct, then, on this occasion, when all the circumstances are taken into consideration, is inconsistent with a superstitious observance of the Sabbath, and yet furnishes no plea for its lax observance. It teaches us that we should be ready both to receive, and to show whatever hospitality may be really necessary on the Sabbath; and it especially sanctions needful attentions to those who are from home. At the same time, it can never fairly be urged as a plea for common visiting on the Sabbath. Most certainly, the receiving and the frequenting of company, in the usual sense of the word, and for the purpose of worldly intercourse and gratification, are altogether inconsistent with the due observance of this holy day. It is true that there were several other persons present in the Pharisee's house at this meal; for this there may, or there may not, have been a good reason; for this, too, however it may have been, Jesus was not answerable; nor are we called on to defend in every respect the conduct of any of the rest of the party. Besides, when this event in our Lord's history is referred to as an example, it should never be forgotten how suitably to the great end of the Sabbath he employed the time, and how much spiritual instruction he uttered, for the benefit of all who were present.
While our Lord was thus in the house of the Pharisee, "they watched him," that is, the Pharisee himself, and the rest who were present, especially the lawyers and other Pharisees, carefully and maliciously observed Christ, in order to find something whereof to accuse him. This was very bad in all of them, but especially in the master of the house. Even heathens regard any violation of the laws of hospi
tality, on the part either of the entertained or of the entertainer, as a very heinous crime. How iniquitous, then, was it, in this man, under the pretence of kindness, to invite Jesus to his house, and then to lay snares, and watch for his halting! It would be some relief to the blackness of this scene, could we find any reason for exempting at least the landlord from this charge; but there does not appear any ground for the exception. It would have been well, if this bad spirit had died with that race of Pharisees; but Pharisees, in principle, still everywhere exist, and in them this unpleasant feature is perpetuated. Are they not those who are capable of concealing the designs of treachery under the mask of friendship? Are there not persons to be met with in company, who maliciously watch those who are considered pious, and are ready to take an unfair advantage of them? Are there not even some who attend religious meetings on the Sabbath, with a suspicious and captious spirit, and who, disdainful of instruction, and drawing themselves up against serious impressions, hear only with the desire of being able to lay hold on something which they may afterwards speak against, or find capable of being perversely twisted into a subject of grave charge, or light ridicule? Doubtless, it is the duty of those who have to advocate Christianity, to give no just cause for such conduct; and it should not be forgotten, that when an excuse is furnished for it, by anything, either decidedly wrong in the matter, or very unbecoming in the manner, sin attaches to both parties. Let, however, those who can watch maliciously for faults, remember that there is an eye watching them, even the all-seeing eye of Him who will neither impute to them that of which they are not guilty, nor fail to mark with hisdisapprobation what really deserves it.
While they were now watching Christ with an evil eye, "Behold, there was a certain man before him who had the dropsy." It does not appear whether this afflicted man had come at the request of the Pharisee, or had ventured to enter of his own accord, in the desire and expectation of a cure; but the wisdom and goodness of Providence are to be noticed in his being present at this juncture, when his own comfort, and the honour of Christ, were to be thereby so signally promoted.
"And Jesus, answering, spake unto the lawyers" (or scribes)" and Pharisees," who were present, "saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath-day?" This is another of the