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both of preparing our understandings for the impartial discernment, and of disposing our hearts unto the sincere approbation of what is just and honourable in life. For this is the law and the prophets. This is the voice both of the law and of the prophets; it is the sum and substance of the moral precepts contained in them.
Having thus spoken, he exhorted them, in a humble dependance on the assistance of the Spirit, to strive to enter in at the strait gate, that is, vigorously to attempt the work of religion, how difficult soever it may appear. Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be Thich go in thereat; because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. As if he had said, vice, it is true, though nearly allied to destruction, is adorned with many false beauties, promises much, and has numberless votaries; whilst an austere and mortified course of life, though the safest, looks stern, and invites but few. Nevertheless, in your choice of the way to happiness, you are to consider, not how much pleasure it is attended with, but how certainly it will bring you to your desired end; neither are you to regard the numbers, but the manners of them you would accompany.
But because the difficulties of religion are oftentimes greatly increased by false teachers, who, under pretence of conducting men in the road to happiness, lead the simple astray; our Lord cautioned his disciples to beware of them, and proposed marks to know them by. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. False teachers will come to you with a mortified air, pale countenances, emaciated bodies, and mean clothing. They will pray loud and long, bestow largely on the poor, and seem earnest to give the people right instruction; in a word, they will assume the most specious appearance of humility, piety, and innocence. So disfigured, and so disguised, you may be apt to take them for sheep, persons very innocent and useful; while, in reality, they are ravening, though concealed, wolves, whose intention is to tear the flock in pieces, that they may gorge themselves with their carcases. But ye shall know them by the nature and tendency of their doctrine, and by the more secret actions of their lives, better than by those showy qualities, whose value depend entirely on the right application of them. Accordingly, if you look more narrowly at this sort of teachers, you shall discern them to be wolves; for you will find them to be immensely proud, revengeful, pleasers of themselves,; sometimes, also, addicted to their belly, and always, at the conclusion, much more employed in doing their own work than God's. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them. Remember to judge of teachers by the nature and tendency of their doctrine, rather than by the more public actions of their lives; for even some of those whom I have commissioned to teach, and enabled to work miracles, shall, by the wickedness of their lives, fall under condemnation.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doth the will of my Father, which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? We preached by virtue of power and authority from thec, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works. Bad men, on some occasions, have, in the wisdom of providence, been commissioned by God to signify his pleasure, and have been farmished with powers to prove their mission; witness Judas Iscariot, who was admitted
into the college of apostles by our Lord himself. Prophecying, ejection of devils, and other miracles, are mentioned, to shew that no gift, endowment, or accomplishment whatsoever, without faith and holiness, will avail to our acceptance with God; a caution very proper in those days, when the gifts of the Spirit were to be bestowed, in such plenty, on them who made profession of Christianity. He added, And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from me ye that work imiquity Though I call you to be my servant, and you professed yourselves such, I never knew you to be such, nor approved of you. I knew, indeed, that you were the slaves of other masters, mammon, your own belly, and ambition; wherefore, as your lives have been contrary both to my precepts and your own profession, begone; I will have nothing to do with you. That this is the true meaning of the expression, I never knew you, will appear, if the appellation, Lord, Lord, wherewith these wicked men addressed the judge, is attended to; for, in this connection, it is as if they had said, Master, dost thou not know thine own servants? Did not we preach by thy authority, and by thy power foretel future events, and cast out devils, and work many miracles? Because Jesus had now spoken a great deal, he concluded his discourse with the parable of the houses built on different foundations. Therefore, whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. In calm serene weather any edifice will stand but it is the wintry blasts that try the strength of a structure. The wise man, foreseeing these, provides against them by building his house upon a rock, where it stands immoveable in the midst of hurricanes. But the fool, not thinking of winter, is so charmed with the beauty of a particular situation, that, without considering, he builds his house there, even though it be a hillock of loose sand. The winter comes, heavy showers of rain fall, an impetuous torrent, from a neighbouring mountain, rushes by, and saps the foundation of his building. The storms beat upon it, the house shakes, it totters, it falls with a terrible noise, and makes the whole circumjacent plain to resound. He who hears my precepts, and puts them in practice, may be compared to the wise man, that built his house upon a rock. He provides for himself a place of shelter and accommodation that will subsist in the wreck of the world. On the other hand, he who hears my precepts, and does them not, may be compared to the fool who built his house upon the sand. The edifice which he has reared for his future accommodation being built upon a bad foundation, will quickly fall. By this parable, therefore, our Lord has taught us, that the bare knowledge of true religion, or the simple hearing of the divinest lessons of morality that ever were delivered by men, nay, the belief of these instructions, if possible, without the practice of them, is of no importance at all. It is doing of the precepts of religion alone which can establish a man so stedfastly that he shall neither be shaken with the temptations, afflictions, and persecutions of the present life, nor by the terrors of the future. Whereas, whosoever heareth and doth them not will be overwhelmed and oppressed by the storms of both worlds; oppressed in this life, and utterly overwhelmed in that which is to come.
And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. The words of Christ made a wonderful impression on the minds of his auditors, who
never had heard the like before. They began to relish the holy sweetness of truth, and were astonished at the freedom and boldness with which he spake. For he taught them as one having authority immediately from God, and, consequently, did not teach them as the scribes, whose lectures, for the most part, were absolutely trifling, being drawn from traditions from the comments of other doctors, which these ignorant and corrupt teachers substituted in the place of scripture, reason, and truth.
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FROM THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT TO THE FIRST MISSION OF THE APOSTLES.
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Immediately after the sermon upon the mount there was performed the cure of the leper, mentioned by Matthew in the eighth chapter of his gospel. We shall give the story in the translation of Dr. Campbell, and afterwards subjoin a few explanatory remarks.
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Being come down from the mountain, followed by a great multitude, a leper came, who, prostrating himself before him, said, Sir, if thou wilt, thou canst cleanse me. Jesus stretched out his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou cleansed. Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, See thou tell nobody; but go, shew thyself to the priest, and make the oblation prescribed by Moses for refused t notifying (the cure) to the people.
1. It is remarkable that, in many instances, as Dr. Macknight justly observes, our Lord was at the greatest pains to conceal his miracles. Perhaps he did not intend that he should be universally believed on during his own life-time. He was, indeed, mention to fulfil the whole prophetical characters of the Messiah; that when the time appointed for erecting his kingdom came, the foundation, on which it was to rest, might want the day tin nothing of the strength and solidity that was necessary to support so great a fabric
the faith of the world. But all those prophetical characters of the Messiah, Jesus fulfilled and appropriated to himself; when in his own life-time, he proved his mission. from God by miracles, communicated the knowledge of divine things to a competent number of disciples, in order to their propagating it through the world; and, in the conclusion, by his sufferings and death, not only confirmed his doctrine, but made atonement for the sins of men.
The wisdom of this plan was worthy of its author. For, had our Lord, during his ministry, proposed to convert great numbers of the Jews, he might, no doubt, have done it with as much success as after his ascension. But then the consequences would have been inconvenient in two respects. First, Had the Jews become universally Christ's followers, they would have endeavoured to make him a king; by which means, one main end of his coming must have been defeated, his dying a atonement for sin, and the Christian religion have been deprived of the evidence which it derives from the greatest of all his miracles, his resurrection from the dead. Second, This general good reception given to Jesus by his countrymen might have made the Gentiles reject him, supposing it was a contrivance to support the sinking credit of the nation. On the other hand, if it should be said that our Lord would not have convinced more than he did, though he had attempted it, this consequence, at least, must have followed from the attempt. Herod in Galilee, or the governor in Judea, provoked at him for affecting popularity, would have cut him off. Or, though they had despised him, and let him alone, the haughty priests would certainly have de stroyed him before his time. We are warranted to say this by what happened toward the conclusion of his ministry, when he went into Judea, taught in the temple, wrought his miracles publicly before the world They pursued him so hotly, that though he was innocent of every crime, they constrained the governor to condemn him, and execute upon him the punishment of the vilest malefactor. But it was necessary that Jesus should perform many miracles for the confirmation of his mission, and preach many sermons in order to prepare his disciples for their future work; he was obliged, at least, in the beginning of his ministry, to keep himself as private as the nature of his work would admit. And this he supposes was one of the reasons that induced him to spend so large a share of his public life in Galilee, and the other countries around the lake.
But farther, our Lord kept himself private, that he might not be too much incommoded by the crowds. For, though he used every prudent method to prevent it, he was often hurried to such a degree that he had not leisure to take his necessary meals, far less leisure for instructing his disciples. [Mark i. 45. iii. 20. vi. 31.] To conclude: besides these general reasons, there may oft-times have been particular circumstances which made it fit to conceal the miracle, on occasion of which the caution was given. We know there was a reason of this kind attending the miracle under Consideration. Jesus intended that the priests should pass judgment on the cure of the leper, before they knew how it had been brought about; because, had they known this, it is more than probable, that, in order to destroy the credit of the miracle, they would have refused to pronounce the man clean.
2. The same able writer observes, that it has been generally thought that this is the leper whose cure is recorded, Mark i. 40. Luke v. 12. But the cures, in his opinion, are different. That was performed in a city, this in the fields. Having cleansed the leper here mentioned, Jesus entered into Capernaum, and cured the centurion's son that was sick. Whereas, the other leper having published the miracle, Jesus could not, at least in the day time, go into the town, but was obliged to remain without, in desert places, to shun the crowd. It must be acknowledged, indeed, that there are some