صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

to the dictates of his reason and conscience to please them. But though they cast him out of their church, Christ received him into his, which is the true church, the spiritual inclosure, where the sheep go in and out and find pasture. That this parabolical discourse was taken from the sheep which were inclosed in little folds within the outer court of the temple, whither they were brought by their own shepherds to be sold, is plain; because our Lord speaks of such folds as the shepherd himself could not enter till the porter opened to him the door, viz. of the temple. [John x. 1.] Verily, verily, I say into you, he that entereth not by the door into the sheep-fold, that does not come in my name, and preach my gospel, but climbeth up some other way, intruding into the church to serve his own worldly purposes, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door; the teacher that believes on me, and derives his authority from me, is a true pastor, the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter opereth, that he may be regularly admitted to his office, and the sheep hear his voice and, like the eastern shepherds, who gave names to their sheep, he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And, as he is attentive to confirm his preaching by his practice, when he putteth forth his own sheep he goeth before, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice, having experienced the benefits of his instruction.

Finding that they did not understand this parable, he added by way of explanation, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me in the capacity of religious teachers, without my authority, are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door, by which alone mankind can be admitted into the fold of God; by me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture, receiving such instructions as shall nourish his soul unto eternal life. Whereas, the thief, the pretended minister of God, cometh not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I am come that they, who were before dead in sins, believing in me, might have life, and that they who already possessed it might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd, the chief shepherd to whom the Father hath committed the care of his people; and as the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep, exposing himself to death in their defeuce, so I am going to shed my blood to accomplish the redemption of my saints. But he that is an hireling, that acteth from selfish motives, and has not, like the shepherd, an interest in preserving the sheep, seeth the wolf coming, when tribulation falls upon the church, and leaveth the sheep and fleeth, and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. But I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, having a feeling for their infirmities, and am known of mine, they having a blessed experience of my saving grace. And such is my relation to the eternal God, that as the Father knoweth me by his all-searching wisdom, so know I the Father, and it is in his cause, and by his special commission, that I lay down my life for the sheep. And, beside the Jewish tribes, who are now the partakers of my more immediate care, there are other sheep that I have, even the Gentiles, who are not of this fold; them also must I bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay dowu my life for this very purpose, that I might take it again, and thus completely accomplish the redemption of my people; for no man, weak as I may appear, taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again; and in all this I fulfil the divine appointment, for this commandment I have received of my Father.

These sayings affected the minds of the Jews differently; for some of them cried out that he was possessed and mad, and that it was folly to hear him: others, judging

more impartially of him and his doctrine, declared that his discourses were not the words of a lunatic, nor his miracles the works of a devil. Moreover, they asked his enemies if they imagined any devil was able to impart the faculty of sight to one that was born blind, alluding to the astonishing cure which Jesus had lately performed.

[ocr errors]

This conversation took place at Jerusalem on the feast of dedication, in the winter before his crucifixion. And Jesus was walking in the temple, in that part of it which, to preserve the memory of the antient edifice, was denominated Solomon's porch. The Jews at this time came round him, requiring that he would tell them plainly whether or not he were the true Messiah of God. Jesus replied that he had already told them by his works, beth common and miraculous; but that they had refused to believe him. because they were not his sheep, the people whom his father had drawn to him. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hands. My Father which gave them me is greater than all, and none is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one. The Jews, finding him assert this intimate union with the Father, took up stones to stone him, in obedience. as they supposed, to the law, which was promulgated against blasphemy in Lev. xxiv. 16. Jesus answered them, many good works have I shewed you from my Father ; for which of those works do ye stone me? In confirmation of my mission from my Father, I have worked many miracles, all of a beneficent kind, and most becoming the perfections of my Father, who sent me. I have fed the hungry, I have healed the lame, I have cured the sick, I have given sight to the blind, I have cast out devils, and I have raised the dead, for which of ali these are ye going to stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, for a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy, and because that thou being a man makest thyself God. We are going to punish thee with death for no good work, but for blasphemy; for though thou art a man, weak and mortal as ourselves are, thou arrogantly assumest to thyself the power and majesty of God; and, by laying claim to the incommunicable attributes of the Deity, makest thyself God. This they took to he the plain meaning of his assertion, that he and the Father were one. Jesus answered them, is it not written in your law, I said, ye are gods? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, thou blasphemest, because I said I am the Son of God? If in the scripture, the authority of which you all acknowledge, they to whom the commandment of ruling God's people was given are called gods, and the sons of God, on account of their high office and the inspiration of the Spirit, which was bestowed on them but sparingly, can ye with reason say of him whom God hath sent into the world on the grand work of saving the human race, and whom he hath set apart for that work by giving him the Spirit without measure, thou blasphemest, because I said I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though you believe not me, believe the works. Though you do not believe what I say concerning my personal dignity, ye ought to believe it on account of my miracles, which are plainly of such a kind, that it is impossible for any deceiver to perform them; they are the works of God himself, and therefore ye ought to consider them as such; believe the works that ye may know and believe that the Father is in me and I in him: may know that I neither do nor say any thing but by his authority; for the Father and I are so united, that every thing I say and do is, in reality, said and done by him, and he approves of it accordingly.

As this defence was so far from satisfying the Jews, that it only increased their

rage, and caused them to make attempts to seize his person, our Lord thought proper to retreat to the country beyond Jordan, and there employed some of the last months of his life in delivering the most valuable instructions to his disciples, and to the multitude. His ministry was well received, the people flocking round him in great numbers, and many of them receiving him as the Messiah, in consequence of their finding the testimony of John amply confirmed, and illustrated by the teaching, conduct, and miracles, of the Son of God.



Christ in Perea teaches his disciples---his miracles are again ascribed to Beelzebubhe again repeats the sign of the prophet Jonas, and the parable of the lighted lamp--dines with a Pharisee---the Pharisees reproved---exhortation to the disciples to avoid anxiety-- Christ refuses to decide a dispute---parable of the rich glutton---the disciples exhorted to watchfulness, and informed of approaching troubles---Christ's observations on the murder of the Galileans---parable of the barren fig-tree---cure of the woman who had been bowed down eighteen years---exhortation to enter by the strait gate--the approaching calamities of Jerusalem bemoaned--Christ visits one of the chief Pharisees, at whose house he heals a man who was afflicted with the dropsy, and delivers the parable of the great supper---the three parables of the lost sheep, lost silver, and prodigal son---parable of the unjust steward---of the rich man and Lazarus--exhortation to humility, and to avoid giving offence---Christ goes to see Lazarus--the ten lepers---the resurrection of Lazarus.

WHILE Jesus was in the country beyond Jordan, he happened to pray publicly with such fervency, that one of his disciples, exceedingly affected both with the matter and manner of his address, begged that he would teach them to pray. It seems, this disciple had not been present when our Lord, in the beginning of his ministry, gave his hearers directions concerning their devotions; or, if he were present, he had forgotten what had then been said. Wherefore, Jesus, who always rejoiced to find his hearers desirous of instruction, willingly embraced this opportunity, and repeated the discourse on prayer which he had formerly delivered in his sermon on the mount; but with this difference, that he now handled the arguments which he had offered as motives to the duty a little more fully than before. Christ, on this occasion, repeated that brief formula which is denominated the Lord's prayer, and which he had delivered in the sermon on the mount, as well as in that on the plain; and then enforced the duty of constancy in prayer, by the example of one who gave way to the importunity of his friend, though he called upon him at midnight; and of an earthly parent, who will not refuse the reasonable requests of a child, but give him such gifts as should be really conducive to his benefit. If ye, said Christ, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Ghost to them that ask him.

About this time, our Lord having cast out a devil, the Pharisees again attributed

his influeuce to a power derived from the prince of infernal spirits; and Christ defended himself by a train of similar arguments with those which we have repeated upon a former occasion. While Jesus thus reasoned in confutation of the Pharisees, a woman of the company, ravished with his wisdom and eloquence, and, perhaps, believing him to be their long expected Messiah, expressed her admiration of his character in a manner suitable to her sex. She broke forth in an exclamation upon the happiness of the woman who had the honour of giving him birth. But Jesus, not at all moved with her praise, gave her an answer which, at the same time that it shewed his humility, did the greatest honour to virtue. The blessedness, said he, which you prize so much, and which could be enjoyed by one woman only, however great, is far inferior to a blessedness which is in every one's power, namely, that which arises from the knowledge and practice of the will of God. But he said, yea, rather blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it.

The multitude having gathered round, probably in the expectation of seeing a sign from heaven, our Lord again assured them that they should receive no other than that of the prophet Jonas, which was to be exemplified in his own death and resurrection; and again admonished them of the importance of making a proper use of that religious knowledge which had been communicated to them, and to take heed that the light which was in them was not darkness.

When he had made an end of speaking upon these subjects, one of the Pharisees invited him to his house, probably with an insidious intention of ensnaring him in his words. However this might be, Christ accepted the invitation, accompanied the Pharisee, and sat down at table, but without washing, as all the other guests had done. When the Pharisee who invited him observed this, he was greatly surprised to see so great contempt cast upon their traditions. [Luke ix. 39.] And the Lord said unto him, now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter, paying the strictest regard to whatever might defile the body, but the soul, your inward part, is full of ravening and wickedness. Did not that God who made the body make also the soul? be, therefore, merciful, as he is merciful, and give alms of such things as ye have. But woe unto you Pharisees; for ye tithe mint and rue, and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God, those most essential parts of true religion. These should have claimed the first share in your regard, while you ought not to have omitted the less important matters of the law. He then denounced a judgment against the pride of the Pharisees, which was so excessive, that it displayed itself in their carriage while walking in the streets, and attending at the synagogues. As in the third woe he joined the scribes with the Pharisees, it will not be here im · proper to give a brief summary of their character.

The scribes were called, in the Hebrew language, sopherim, writers; and are often mentioned, in the sacred history, as persons of great authority in the Jewish commonwealth. They were originally secretaries, being employed in the church, the state, the army, the revenue, &c.; to which offices those were entitled who could write, because, antiently, that art was practised by few. When Ezra made the reformation in religion which has rendered him so famous among the Jewish doctors, he was assisted by the scribes in revising the canon of scripture, and ordered matters so, that from thenceforth a sufficient number of them should always be employed in multiplying the copies of it. This class of men, therefore, being much conversant in the sacred writings, acquired a singular knowledge of them; and, in process of time, expounded them to the common people [Mat. vii. 39.] with such reputation, that, at length, they obtained the title of doctors, or teachers, [Luke ii. 46.] and were consulted upon all difficult points of faith. [Mat. ii. 4.] Hence they are said, by our Lord,

« السابقةمتابعة »